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Trump to Visit Florida, Georgia        10/15 06:07

   On Monday, President Donald Trump plans to visit Florida and Georgia and see 
the recovery effort for himself. Trump declared a state of emergency for 
Georgia late Sunday.

   MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Upon touring the damage in several towns along 
Florida's Panhandle, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long 
called the destruction left by Hurricane Michael some of the worst he's ever 
seen.

   On Monday, President Donald Trump plans to visit Florida and Georgia and see 
the recovery effort for himself. Trump declared a state of emergency for 
Georgia late Sunday.

   In hurricane-flattened Mexico Beach, crews with backhoes and other heavy 
equipment scooped up splintered boards, broken glass, chunks of asphalt and 
other debris Sunday as the mayor held out hope for the 250 or so residents who 
may have tried to ride out the storm.

   The death toll from Michael's destructive march from Florida to Virginia 
stood at 17, with just one confirmed death so far in this town of about 1,000 
people that took a direct hit from the hurricane and its 155 mph (250 kph) 
winds last week.

   Mayor Al Cathey estimated 250 residents stayed behind when the hurricane 
struck, and he said he remained hopeful about their fate. He said 
search-and-rescue teams in the beach town had already combed areas with the 
worst damage.

   "If we lose only one life, to me that's going to be a miracle," Cathey said.

   He said enough food and water had been brought in for the residents who 
remain. Even some cellphone service had returned to the devastated community.

   A framed portrait of Jesus was propped Sunday facing out of the window of 
Diana Hughes' home in Mexico Beach. She rode out the hurricane on the couch 
huddled with her dog and her ex-husband.

   The storm peeled off a small section of the roof and a few inches of water 
got in the single-story house. But the pickup truck wouldn't start after 
getting swamped with water. Hughes still had her home, but no way to leave it.

   "We need a generator, but we just lack transportation," Hughes said on her 
front porch. "We've got food and we've got water. But we've got to keep ice in 
the refrigerator so the food won't spoil. You can only eat so many crackers."

   Four days after the storm struck, a large swath of the Panhandle was 
suffering, from little beach towns to the larger Panama City to rural 
communities miles from where the hurricane came ashore. More than 190,000 homes 
and businesses in Florida were without electricity, along with about 120,000 in 
Georgia.

   "We are talking about poor people, many of them are older, miles from each 
other, isolated in many cases from roads, including some dirt roads that are 
cut off right now," Sen. Marco Rubio said on NBC's "Meet The Press." ''We 
haven't been able to reach those people in a number of days."

   In downtown Marianna, Florida, the facades of historic buildings lay in 
pieces on the ground across from the courthouse. Jill Braxton stopped with a 
pickup truck loaded with hay, saying many people in rural areas nearby had 
trapped animals and needed supplies for their livestock.

   "We're just trying to help some other people who may not be able to get out 
of their driveways for a couple of days," Braxton said. "There was a girl that 
had trapped horses, horses that were down, and horses that really needed vet 
care that could not get there. There's been animals killed. People lost their 
cows."

   Some victims stranded by the storm managed to summon relief by using logs to 
spell out "HELP" on the ground, officials in Bay County, which includes Mexico 
Beach, said in a Facebook post. Official said someone from another county was 
using an aerial mapping app, noticed the distress message and contacted 
authorities.

   No details were released on who was stranded and what sort of help was 
needed.

   Meanwhile, Sen. Bill Nelson said Tyndall Air Force Base on the Panhandle was 
heavily damaged, but he promised it would be rebuilt. The Florida Democrat and 
member of the Armed Services Committee said older buildings on the base were 
demolished, while newer ones will need substantial repairs.

   The base is home to some of the nation's most advanced fighter jets, and 
Nelson said some hangars were damaged severely. But he gave no information on 
how many planes were on the base during the storm or how many were damaged.

   In a statement Sunday night, the Air Force said that, "Not one Airman or 
family member was injured during Hurricane Michael." Of its aircraft the 
statement said that visually they all looked intact but that maintenance 
professionals will do a detailed assessment of the F-22 Raptors and other 
aircraft before they say with certainty that damaged aircraft can be repaired 
and sent back into the skies

   For the few residents remaining in Mexico Beach, conditions were treacherous.

   Steve Lonigan was outside his home, talking with neighbor Jim Ostman, when a 
loud cracking sound made both men jump. It was just a small wooden block 
shifting in the sand beneath the weight of the front end of Lonigan's camper 
trailer.

   "All this stuff is just dangerous," Ostman said, glancing at the destruction 
all around. "It's so unstable."

   Lonigan and his wife returned Sunday after evacuating to Georgia. Seawater 
surged into his home, leaving a soggy mess of mud and leaves, even though the 
house stands 12 feet (3.7 meters) above ground on concrete blocks.

   The single-story house had broken windows, and part of its roof and front 
steps were missing. Lonigan used a ladder to climb inside.

   "We've got a lot more left than other people," he said. "We were able to 
sleep in the bedroom last night."


(KA)

 
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