Gas was in short supply, power outages were rampant and search teams continued their arduous tasks Sunday as Florida’s recovery from Hurricane Michael remained painfully slow along the coast of the state’s battered Panhandle.
There were some victories. Classes will resume Monday at Florida State’s sprawling, 40,000-student campus in Tallahassee and several other area universities. State offices also reopened.
In the Bay County communities of Panama City and Mexico Beach, where the strongest hurricane to hit the Panhandle since record-keeping began slammed onto the coast four days earlier, search-and-rescue crews accompanied by dogs solemnly picked through the rubble of shattered neighborhoods
The storm killed at least 17 people, including one in Mexico Beach. Entire communities were wiped out by the Category 4 storm’s roaring winds, and authorities feared the death toll would rise.
“If we lose only one life, to me, that’s going to be a miracle,” Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey said.
More than 170,000 power customers in Florida remained in the dark Sunday, including more than half the homes and businesses in Bay County. For some, power could be weeks away.
The effort to get schools and hospitals fully operational will be herculean. Bill Husfelt, superintendent of county schools, assessed damage over the weekend and had not decided when they could reopen.