Thu | Oct 18, 2018

'Apocalyptic:' One Florida town demolished by Michael

Published:Friday | October 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM
The coastal township of Mexico Beach, Florida, lays devastated on Thursday, after Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle.

MEXICO BEACH, Florida (AP):

The small Gulf Coast community of Mexico Beach was known as a slice of Old Florida.

Now it lies in splinters.

Hit head-on by Hurricane Michael, homes in this town of about 1,190 people were shattered or ripped from their foundations. Boats were tossed like toys. The streets closest to the water looked as if a bomb had gone off.

What the nine-foot storm surge didn't destroy, the 155mph (250 kph) winds finished off.

Now, rescuers and residents are struggling to get into the ground-zero town to assess the damage and search for the hundreds of people believed to have stayed behind.

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband looked for the elderly mother of a friend yesterday. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards from the Gulf and thought she would be OK.

Her home was reduced to crumbled cinderblocks and pieces of floor tile.

"Aggy! Aggy!" McPherson yelled. The only sound that came back was the echo from the half-demolished building and the pounding of the surf.

"Do you think her body would be here? Do you think it would have floated away?" she asked.

As she walked down the street, McPherson pointed out pieces of what had been the woman's house: "That's the blade from her ceiling fan. That's her floor tile."

Drone footage of Mexico Beach on Thursday morning showed a stunning landscape of devastation. Few structures were unscathed.

John Humphress, a storm chaser and drone pilot, arrived in Mexico Beach around 5 p.m. Wednesday, a few hours after Michael slammed into the coastline. He had one word to describe what he saw: "Apocalyptic."

State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order.

A National Guard team went into the area and found 20 survivors overnight, and more crews were pushing into the area on Thursday. The fate of many other residents was unknown, authorities said.