‘Total devastation’: Residents return to destroyed homes in Florida Panhandle

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (WSVN) – Two days after Hurricane Michael made landfall along the Florida Panhandle, the shock and disbelief is still settling in.

“You get stunned when you see so much,” Mexico Beach resident Robin Retzkoff said. “The house is not livable, so I don’t know.”

People who live in Mexico Beach don’t know where to start. The deadly storm destroyed nearly everything it touched. So much of the damage is beyond repair.

“Total devastation,” resident Fran Boaz said. “Every piece of property, if it isn’t, you know, got have something wrong with it, it’s leveled.”

Officials warn the death toll from the storm is likely to rise as search and rescue teams from across the country work to gain access to the hardest hit areas.

“We are largely focused still on search and rescue in some of these areas,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long said. “We hope to have 100% of the initial search and rescue operation done in Florida today, as well as Georgia.”

The U.S. Coast Guard shared some of those rescues caught on camera, including one out of Panama City of a woman being airlifted during the storm after she was trapped due to high water

And Customs and Border Patrol also performing air rescues. The dramatic scene unfolded near Panama City as they brought up person after person.

A storm surge of up to 14 feet caused most of the damage along the coast line.

“I thought that trees were going by and I realized it was our house,” resident Dawn Vickers said. “It had broken off the foundation and was floating around.”

Communication in and out of Mexico Beach is near impossible. There’s no cell phone service and some families still haven’t spoken to their loved ones.

This is the first time Dana Casteel has been able to get to a working phone. She just found out that, after the storm came through, her dad lost his battle with lung cancer. She could not get there even though he was only four miles away.

“I’m just glad he’s not in pain anymore,” Casteel said. “Just y’all pray for Bay County, pray for all of us. You can replace things, not people.”

Copyright 2018 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.