Search and rescue continues, as responders try to keep death toll from rising

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- The remnants of Hurricane Michael have now moved back out to sea. Its path of destruction left at least 11 people dead, and that number is expected to rise. Repairing the broken lives and communities left behind has only just begun.

Much of the Southeast is praying for relief as local, state, and federal responders pour resources into recovery. After leading the federal response from Washington – FEMA administrator Brock Long is set to get a first-hand view Saturday.

“Bottom line: it was one of the most powerful storms the country’s seen,” Long said at a Friday morning press briefing.

The deadly storm swept through Florida, Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas. Search and rescue efforts continue as responders try to keep the casualty rate from rising. “And, when you have that type of damage it takes some time to get in,” said Long.

Restoring power to the 1.5 million without it will be critical, as is restoring cell service.
Leaders emphasize that in the hardest hit areas, it’s still not safe to return home; several thousand people are living in shelters.

“The other goals outside of the life safety, search and rescue mission, is stabilizing the health and medical care system in Florida,” Long said, “the hospitals took a tremendous hit.”

Heavily damaged hospitals in Florida are being evacuated, while keeping emergency units open.
Medical crews are setting up temporary facilities and joining search and rescue in the field.

The administrator praised the responses from the federal government, as well as state and local efforts.
But, he said he’s frustrated by what he sees on the ground – a level of devastation that’s at least partially preventable. “You see this enough in your career, you get ticked off about it,” he said.

Long said homeowners, local communities, and states need to learn from the past and build smarter, more storm-resilient communities, and residents ought to heed warnings when leaders tell them to evacuate.

Those in five of the hardest hit counties in Florida -- Bay, Franklin, Wakulla, and Gulf -- can apply for disaster assistance through FEMA. More areas are expected to qualify soon. CLICK HERE

And, if you’re struggling to reconnect with friends or loved ones – leaders suggest you visit the Red Cross’ ‘Safe and Well’ website. CLICK HERE

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