Oct 13, 2018, 4:00 AM ET

Hurricane Michael updates: Death toll rises to 17 as 'tremendous number' unaccounted for in hard-hit Florida

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Hurricane Michael, a ferocious and historic storm, has killed at least 17 people, left a "tremendous number" of others unaccounted for and left a trail of destruction across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

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Michael is the fourth most powerful storm on record to hit the U.S., and the worst since Hurricane Camille in 1969.

It is also the first Category 4 hurricane to ever make landfall on the Florida Panhandle, and "the worst storm" that area has ever seen, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.

PHOTO: Kathy Coy stands among what is left of her home after Hurricane Michael destroyed it on Oct. 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. She said she was in the home when it was blown apart and is thankful to be alive. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Kathy Coy stands among what is left of her home after Hurricane Michael destroyed it on Oct. 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. She said she was in the home when it was blown apart and is thankful to be alive.

The hurricane blasted into the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon, demolishing homes and submerging entire neighborhoods.

PHOTO: People look on at a damaged store after Hurricane Michael passed through on Oct. 10, 2018, in Panama City, Fla.Mark Wallheiser/Getty Image
People look on at a damaged store after Hurricane Michael passed through on Oct. 10, 2018, in Panama City, Fla.

PHOTO: The Cooter Stew Cafe starts taking water in the town of Saint Marks as Hurricane Michael pushes the storm surge up the Wakulla and Saint Marks Rivers which come together here on Oct. 10, 2018, in Saint Marks, FLa.Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
The Cooter Stew Cafe starts taking water in the town of Saint Marks as Hurricane Michael pushes the storm surge up the Wakulla and Saint Marks Rivers which come together here on Oct. 10, 2018, in Saint Marks, FLa.

ABC News Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee said the ruins in Mexico Beach, Florida, were "eerily reminiscent to the scene I saw in Gulfport [Mississippi] in 2005," after Hurricane Katrina.

Before Michael hit, law enforcement made a list of everyone in the small Mexico Beach community who stayed behind.

In Mexico Beach "a tremendous number of people" are "unaccounted for," Mark Bowen, chief of emergency services in Bay County, which encompasses Mexico Beach, told "Good Morning America" Friday.

Rescuers' top priority Friday is a "meticulous" search process, Bowen said, "everything from looking for bodies to looking for injured persons."

"Fire stations were destroyed, police stations were destroyed," Bowen said. "Public safety agencies are only taking highest priority calls right now ... heart attacks, you know, major trauma. ... An enormous amount of 911 calls are going unresponded to because we’ve got this priority to search and rescue. So it’s a terrible thing."

The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued more than 60 people an assisted nearly 300 by Friday evening, it said in a press release.

PHOTO: A bedroom of a destroyed house is pictured following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Oct. 11, 2018.Carlo Allegri/Reuters
A bedroom of a destroyed house is pictured following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Oct. 11, 2018.

PHOTO: Debris from homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael block a road on Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Chris OMeara/AP
Debris from homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael block a road on Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla.

After Florida, Michael roared through Georgia, sending a tornado through the tiny town of Roberta, near Macon.

Roberta residents Wayne and Sharon Granade told ABC News they ran inside, slammed the door, got under a couch and held each other.

"It comes through like the worst sound you've ever heard in your life," Wayne Granade said. "It started throwing stuff everywhere."

PHOTO: A storm chaser climbs into his vehicle during the eye of Hurricane Michael to retrieve equipment after a hotel canopy collapsed in Panama City Beach, Fla., Oct. 10, 2018.AP
A storm chaser climbs into his vehicle during the eye of Hurricane Michael to retrieve equipment after a hotel canopy collapsed in Panama City Beach, Fla., Oct. 10, 2018.

"You hear the train noise and it sounds like bombs exploding," Sharon Granade said. "I was crying ... It was really scary ... you can hear the trees breaking."

"Worst situation you can be in," Wayne Granade added. "Everybody thinks it ain't gonna happen to you. But it happened to us."

Michael then barreled into the Carolinas, dumping over 9 inches of rain in North Carolina where residents are still reeling from historic flooding left by Hurricane Florence last month.

The Carolinas were followed by Virginia, where the weakened storm still wreaked havoc, flooding roads, downing power lines and killing at least five.

Lives lost

PHOTO: A roof collapses following Hurricane Michael on Oct. 11, 2018, in Panama City Beach, Fla. Chris OMeara-Pool/Getty Images
A roof collapses following Hurricane Michael on Oct. 11, 2018, in Panama City Beach, Fla.

At least 17 people lost their lives in the massive storm.

Four people died in Gadsden County, Florida, said a sheriff's office spokesperson.

In Georgia, an 11-year-old girl, Sarah Radney, was killed when part of a metal carport crashed into her family's trailer in Lake Seminole and struck her in the head, local officials said. Her official cause of death was due to massive blunt force trauma, Seminole County Coroner Chad Smith told ABC News.

Michael is the first major hurricane to blow into Georgia since 1898.

There were five deaths in Virginia, four of which were from drowning, state officials said.

The fifth death in the state was Lt. Brad Clark, a Hanover County firefighter, who was killed while helping at the scene of a car crash Thursday, according to Hanover Fire-EMS and Virginia State Police.

In North Carolina, a 38-year-old man was killed when a tree fell onto his car as he was driving, Iredell County officials said.

Two others also died in North Carolina, according to The Associated Press.

The AP also reported a body was found in Mexico Beach Friday evening, specifically in that town. The Jackson County, Florida, sheriff's office also reported three dead in the county, but did not specify any causes of death.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long on Friday warned that the death toll will likely climb.

"I hope we don’t see that climb dramatically, but ... we still haven’t gotten into some of the hardest-hit areas," he said.

Devastation in Florida

PHOTO: Bo Lynns Market starts taking water in the town of Saint Marks as Hurricane Michael pushes the storm surge up the Wakulla and Saint Marks Rivers which come together here on Oct. 10, 2018 in Saint Marks, Fla. Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
Bo Lynn's Market starts taking water in the town of Saint Marks as Hurricane Michael pushes the storm surge up the Wakulla and Saint Marks Rivers which come together here on Oct. 10, 2018 in Saint Marks, Fla.

The Florida Panhandle is the wide strip in the northwest corner of the state bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the south and Alabama and Georgia to the north. Its largest city is Pensacola, with a population approaching half a million.

Popular with tourists for its beaches, the area also has many year-round residents.

Michael left the coastal community of Mexico Beach destroyed, with the storm surge ripping multiple houses from their foundations, sending them bobbing along the main road that runs through the town.

Zee said she saw an "entire home, a well-built home, rolling down the street."

"It makes you shake," Zee added.

With cell service knocked out, many people are isolated. There are now empty spots where dozens of homes are no longer standing.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted he was hearing "stunning" reports of damage, including that "Mexico Beach is gone" and the "damage in Panama City is catastrophic."

He described Mexico Beach as an "old old Florida town" that "feels like a trip back in time," and Panama City as "a vibrant seaside city" popular for families and students to vacation.

"It will take a long time to recover from this. We will do everything we can to make sure the federal government does it’s part," the senator tweeted. "But I will confess that my biggest fear that this part of Florida, with its unique & genuine characteristics, will never be the same."

Thousands fled the Florida coastline before Michael hit. But by Wednesday morning, it was too late to evacuate. Those who remained were urged to shelter in place.

PHOTO: People seek safety in a shelter as Hurricane Michael approaches, Oct. 10, 2018, in Panama City, Fla.Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
People seek safety in a shelter as Hurricane Michael approaches, Oct. 10, 2018, in Panama City, Fla.

"It sounded like a freight train coming from every direction," Krista Miller, who stayed behind in her 111-year-old home in Apalachicola Bay, told "Good Morning America."

Colleen Swab, her mother and her young daughter took shelter in a closet in Panama City Beach, Florida.

"We were terrified but there was nowhere for us to go. We couldn't get on the roads. It was too late," Swab said. "I thought the roof was going to come off. I don't suggest trying to ride out a storm."

Tyndall Air Force Base, located 12 miles east of Panama City, suffered "severe damage to the base infrastructure," the Air Force said.

No personnel assigned to stay there during the storm were injured, the Air Force added.

As cleanup and rescue efforts were underway Thursday, Gov. Scott urged residents to stay off the roads.

"The worst thing you can do now is act foolishly" by putting yourself in danger or keeping law enforcement from saving lives, he said at a news conference.

Residents in the dark

Michael has left more than 1.3 million households and businesses without power across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

More than 33,000 workers have been mobilized to help restore power, officials said.

The government is urging anyone in a disaster zone to check on their neighbors.

“Right now, what we need is neighbor helping neighbor,” Long, the FEMA Administrator, said in a statement. “We deploy resources and responders, but we know often times it is neighbors who are the first people to help those in need.”

President Donald Trump has approved major disaster declarations in Florida and Georgia.

Residents can register for federal assistance at disasterassistance.gov.

PHOTO: A man walks near a damaged apartment building following Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Oct. 10, 2018. Hurricane Michael charged through Florida and into Georgia on Wednesday, lashing the Panhandle with rains and heavy winds. Eric Thayer/The New York Times via Redux
A man walks near a damaged apartment building following Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Oct. 10, 2018. Hurricane Michael charged through Florida and into Georgia on Wednesday, lashing the Panhandle with rains and heavy winds.

Michael "grew into a monster," Trump said Wednesday from the Oval Office.

Despite the storm, Trump went to his Wednesday night rally in Erie, Pennsylvania.

"We have thousands of people lined up. ... It would have been very unfair," Trump told reporters when asked about whether he was thinking of canceling it.

He later spoke about the hurricane during the rally.

"Our thoughts and prayers on behalf of the nation to everyone out there in the path of Hurricane Michael," Trump told supporters Wednesday night.

Trump said he will visit Florida and Georgia next week.

"We are working very hard on every area and every state that was hit - we are with you!" he tweeted Friday.

ABC News' Ginger Zee, Anne Flaherty, Kenneth Moton, Will Gretsky, Julia Jacobo, Meghan Keneally, Victor Oquendo, Jason Volack, Morgan Winsor and Scott Withers contributed to this report.

News - Hurricane Michael updates: Death toll rises to 17 as 'tremendous number' unaccounted for in hard-hit Florida

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CComments

  • bb1040

    Now they are missing and have to search for ,a couple hundred people who decided to stay.....There was a reason they had an evacuation ........

  • Ctrygrl

    I hope the people who were helping evacuate gave all those who stayed a permanent marker and told them to write their name on their arms. So they could be identified

  • Rocky_Mountain_High

    Trump thought it would be a good idea to go to a campaign event WHILE the hurricane was hitting and people were dying. Trump has no empathy for anyone else and is a disgrace.

  • bhamsam

    Gulfport is in Mississippi, not Louisiana.

  • Chupacabra

    Fortunately that storm moved fast and there wasn't much of any flooding but those winds must have been something serious!

  • mm

    Thank you ABC for reporting on this, CNN's headline is an apple watch issue. I appreciate the humanity and the concern ABC has shown. Not even the President gives a damn about Florida. Thanks ABC.

  • Smiling Man

    Still to come is the shock to the insurance industry and the loss of tax revenue resulting from the utter destruction of so much of the homes and businesses. This Hurricane Michael will have the additional affect to cause insurance companies to raise their rates for storm damage for all living along the Gulf of Mexico coastal area. Buildings that are still standing and usable will be without power until electricians can inspect the internal wiring before power companies will reinstall electrical meters for delivery of power to the residence or business. Getting power back will be a long and difficult process.

  • P'Thizikil

    Trump has pulled out all the stops on getting to the bottom of this. Even now, he's watching 3 TV's at once. Between naps and cheeseburgers, he'll get to the truth as he sees it.

  • Nick

    To residents of gulf cost: Everyone just go back to doing what you were before the storm, there is no reason to worry or do anything about global warming, just ignore it and move back like before!

    To my insurance company don't give out cheap insurance policies you need to factor in the future increased cost from more powerful global warming storms.

    To our politicians, ,.)$$@@&$)$&&5/:?$)()

  • ctla567

    There is only one way to hopefully slowly tame the weather, that is kick out all those anti weather gangsters in congress and elsewhere across the country. They have been warned over and over and over again for decades of these kinds of disasters but were ignored. Kick them all out now before more Americans are forced to sacrifice more and more for the benefit of a minority.

  • southwestfan

    They better hurry up. Once Trump comes and throws paper towels at you, you have to stop counting the dead people.

  • Forward forward

    Well, at least Trump got to his campaign event, for his 'fans'. Yuck.

  • reality25

    So where's President Paper Towel Thrower? Getting ready for another "Look at me!" rally?

  • ranknfile

    Trump is busy parting with Kayne...!

  • revamadison

    Despite the storm, Trump went to his Wednesday night rally in Erie, Pennsylvania.

    "We have thousands of people lined up. ... It would have been very
    unfair," Trump told reporters when asked about whether he was thinking

    of canceling it.

    Yeah, it would be very unfair. But he will pray for them, or else just ask others to do so, because he doesn't know how.

    Weather scientests have been telling us this was going to happen, more and more, and harder and harder. Meantime, Trumps EPA just goe rolling along cancelling all the advances government had made the last 200 years.

  • Tertulliano

    And this devastating news is not headlines in fox news, not even on the first page. what are they hiding?

  • mm

    "An enormous amount of 911 calls are going unresponded to because we’ve got this priority to search and rescue. So it’s a terrible thing." Seems to me if they answered some of those 911 calls they might find some of the people they are searching for? Just a thought.

  • Derek Belik

    Trump’s fault.

  • allison kirkpatric

    Anecdotal evidence exists that many people in this conservative area cried "fake news!" when CNN reported a strong hurricane headed their way; they failed to evacuate.

  • Tim Coolio

    Government is good, they will get the area back to normal.

  • AG99

    Family Dollar has really tough signs.

  • Olorin

    so, if i remember, (in 2013, Rubio was one of 36 Republican senators who voted against a Hurricane Sandy relief bill for New Jersey and New York) florida gop voted against aif=d for hurricane sandy. KARMA

  • Jamie Vetter

    The days of not having flood insurance "and" proper building codes is over. No more free stuff guys. This is not our problem especially when these states vote for people who refuse to raise taxes to pay for the spending. Most of it was preventable if they used the proper building codes. Homes that were destroyed and rebuilt must meet hurricane standards or they don't get built. The era of us buying them new houses every few years is over.