Roxie Cline surveys the damage in the vicinity of her destroyed motor home that she lived in, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

In Mexico Beach after Hurricane Michael, some coming home find no home

State emergency management officials said some 124,500 customers across the Panhandle were still without power Wednesday morning and 1,157 remained in shelters.

With stunned faces and tears, residents of hard-hit Mexico Beach returned home for the first time Wednesday about a week after Hurricane Michael hit to find pieces of their lives scattered across the sand and a community altered.

Nancy Register sobbed uncontrollably after finding no trace of the large camper where she’d lived with her husband. She was particularly distraught over the loss of an old, black-and-white photo of her mother, who died of cancer.

Husband Taylor Register said he found nothing but a stool that he uses for cutting his hair, a hose and a keepsake rock that was given to him by a friend 40 years ago.

“That’s my belongings,” he said, pointing to a small pile beside his red pickup truck. Choking up, he said: “I appreciate God humbling me. Everybody needs it.”

Just up the road, tears ran down Lanie Eden’s face as she and husband Ron Eden sifted through sand in search of items they left before evacuating from the small beach house they’ve rented each October for years. They didn’t find much – just a large pack of toilet paper that somehow stayed dry and a son’s camp chair.

The Edens, who are from Fort Knox, Kentucky, and are temporarily staying in Alabama, were stunned to see mountains of debris and countless destroyed buildings as they drove into town for the first time. In a state of condominium towers, Mexico Beach was one of the few remaining places with small houses and a 1950s feel.

“Basically, we lost ‘old Florida.’ It’s all gone,” said Lanie Eden.

Residents among the community of about 1,200 people who rode out the storm at home have been in Mexico Beach since Michael hit. But officials used the city’s Facebook page to tell others to stay away for a week after the Category 4 storm ravaged the beach town with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a strong storm surge.

State emergency management officials said some 124,500 customers across the Panhandle were still without power Wednesday morning and 1,157 remained in shelters.

Related: Scope of Hurricane Michael’s fury becomes clearer in Florida Panhandle

Related: In Florida, families seeking the missing amid storm damage

In Bay County, home to Mexico Beach and Panama City, more than half of the households and businesses remained without electricity. Inland, in Calhoun County, 98 per cent of the customers didn’t have power Wednesday morning, according to the emergency management website. And in Jackson County, which borders Alabama and Georgia, about 83 per cent were without power.

In the meantime, in many areas devastated by the hurricane, law enforcement officials are battling looting of homes and businesses.

Bay County Sheriff’s Maj. Jimmy Stanford said deputies have arrested about 10 looters each night since the storm hit. In some parts of the county, residents have spray-painted signs warning that “looters will be shot.”

Panama City resident Wes Allen said looters have been a constant problem at the badly damaged motel where he is staying with his wife and three children. Residents have formed a nighttime patrol to keep an eye out for thieves.

“We’ve got looters breaking in and stealing whatever they can,” he said. Allen said he hasn’t reported the thefts to police because authorities seem so busy with other things.

Often the looters have been armed, Stanford said.

“Most of our officers lost their homes, have been working 16- to 18-hour shifts with no sleep, no shower, and now they’re encountering armed individuals,” he said. “It’s a stressful time for everyone in Bay County.”

The storm killed at least 16 people in Florida, most of them in the coastal county that took a direct hit from the storm, state emergency authorities announced Tuesday. That’s in addition to at least 10 deaths in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

The state’s tally did not provide details of how the victims’ deaths were storm-related, and The Associated Press was not immediately able to confirm those details for all of them. The AP’s tally of deaths, in which authorities have confirmed details of how people died, stood at eight in Florida, and 18 overall including other states.

In Mexico Beach, what had been a town of about 1,200, residents don’t expect power or anything else anytime soon.

Carlton Hundley, 25, returned to the house he rented with his girlfriend Connie Huff to find nothing but a long pile of shattered wood. What few possessions they found, including one of his shoes, were scattered across the ground.

“I knew it was bad, I’d already seen the pictures. But it’s a lot more than I thought,” he said.

Roxie Cline, 65, was overcome with emotion as she tried to describe the destruction in Mexico Beach, where she and her husband had lived for three years.

“I can’t, I can’t,” she said, tearing up. “It’s devastating. You lose everything. Everybody has.”

___

Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, and Freida Frisaro in Miami contributed to this report.

___

Jay Reeves, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Neighbors Bob Coleman, left, and Ron Adkisson, search the sites of their former homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Just Posted

Honour

Houston residents took the time to rememeber on Nov. 11, 2018 (Simon… Continue reading

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

North Coast figure skater to star in Dancing On Ice

Carlotta Edwards learned to skate in Prince Rupert, before becoming a star with millions of viewers

Missing man found

On Oct. 21, 2018, the Prince George RCMP received a report that… Continue reading

Former B.C. woman charged over distressed dogs to return to Red Deer court

Defence lawyer hopes to soon resolve more than a dozen charges against B.C. woman

Trudeau warns of dangers of nationalist leaders at historic armistice gathering

U.S. President Donald Trump in recent weeks described himself as a nationalist

Funding announcement promises to drive business innovation in B.C.

Minister is scheduled to make the announcement at the Penticton campus of Okanagan College

Conifex announces a temporary curtailment in operations at Fort St. James mill

Between 180 and 200 people will be affected by the curtailment for at least four weeks

Ticats destroy Lions 48-8 in CFL East Division semifinal

Wally Buono’s last game as B.C. coach ends in disappointment

Olympic decision time for Calgarians in 2026 plebiscite

Calgary’s ‘88 legacy is considered among the most successful in Olympic Games history

Canadians mark Remembrance Day, 100 years since end of First World War

The sombre crowd stood in near-silence as it reflected on the battles that ended a century ago, and those that have come since

B.C. VIEWS: Seniors home worker discrimination finally ending

Health Minister Adrian Dix righting a serious wrong

Northern California fire officials begin agonizing search for dead

The death toll had hit 23 as of Saturday night

U.S. downs Canada 5-2 to win Four Nations Cup women’s hockey tournament

The last time Canada beat the U.S. in a tournament final was the 2014 Four Nations in Kamloops, B.C.

Most Read