Michael recovery plods along in Florida; 200,000 still without power

Emily Mahoney, Miami Herald on

Published in Weather News

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As yet another day of recovery began Sunday, there were already signs that a long slog was ahead for towns in Hurricane Michael's path.

Just under 200,000 Floridians remained without power Sunday morning. As this number has decreased from its peak of about 400,000, the progress has remained concentrated in the lesser-hit areas like Tallahassee's Leon County, while the five hardest-hit counties in the Panhandle remain largely in the dark.

State emergency officials said it will take at least five more days to see progress in these areas, but even that estimate could be highly optimistic for places where buildings were reduced to piles of rubble.

Florida's death toll confirmed by officials stood at nine on Sunday, after the Associated Press reported that a body had been uncovered in Mexico Beach. Three people have been confirmed dead in Jackson County, four in Gadsden County and one in Clay County.

The total number of people killed by the storm is expected to rise as the hardest-hit towns, Mexico Beach and Panama City, begin to use dogs and listening devices to search through the wreckage.

Many did not evacuate in places like Mexico Beach in the days before the storm, and Hurricane Michael rapidly intensified to Category 4 the night before it reached land, leaving little time for those residents to change plans.

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The Florida Department of Corrections confirmed Sunday that the Gulf Correctional Institution, a state prison in Wewahitchka, has been completely evacuated, including its 2,600 inmates and staff. Three-hundred and five inmates from the Calhoun Correctional Institution were also relocated after the storm.

Both facilities sustained "significant damage to roofs and security infrastructure," according to a news release. No one was reported injured. Four prisons are now closed until "further damage assessment," the department said.

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