Five days after Hurricane Michael struck Mexico Beach, Fla., with lethal force that leveled homes and neighborhoods, people are still unaccounted for and about 150,000 homes and business remain without power.
“Power companies sent an army into Florida,” said William Wagner III, chief operations officer for Early Alert of Palm City, Fla., a company that provides alerts and plans for emergency situations. “But the most devastated areas in Mexico City and Panama City Beach are still without power.”
The Florida Division of Emergency Management has set up points of distribution for food and water and those are being staffed by organizations such as the Salvation Army. Bay, Gulf and Calhoun counties are the heaviest hit the damage pushes into Leon County as well.
“Our folks on the ground have reported back that not only are the typical lines down,” explained Wagner. “But concreted poles were snapped in two as well.”
He added that several transformer yards were underwater from the storm surge, as were switching stations, which can add to the time it could take to restore.
According to Early Alert, power outages this morning are at about 150,000 primarily in the aforementioned hard-hit areas. This is down from a maximum of 700,000 affected homes and businesses in the panhandle in the days after the storm.
Wagner explained that although the 155-mph winds were severe, “the storm surge was really the catastrophic impact.” The surge was estimated to have peaked at about 12 to 15 feet and Wagner said that wave action can add another 50 percent on top of that height. Factor in the debris that gets pulled out as the waters recede and the situation is further exacerbated.
The death toll for the storm has been estimated at 18, but according to CNN, there are still 30 to 35 people unaccounted for in Mexico Beach alone. Despite evacuation orders, many people decided to try to ride out the storm.