TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott surveyed several storm-damaged regions by air Thursday — including Bristol, Chipley, St. George Island, Mexico Beach, Panama City Beach and Panama City — as Floridians began to assess the damage wrought by Hurricane Michael the day before.
Several places in the Panhandle, he told reporters Thursday evening after his helicopter landed in Tallahassee, face a heavy lift in recovering from the storm. In Bristol and Chipley, he said, some neighborhoods appeared to have been hit by tornadoes: "You just see spots where everything was down."
He also highlighted flooding in St. George Island, where he noted he had visited before the storm urging people to evacuate: "They told me there were 50-plus people that were staying, and so you're just scared to death what happened to them."
TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE: HURRICANE MICHAEL
In Panama City, where the storm hit hardest, law enforcement are still struggling to communicate with the outage of cell towers in the region, Scott said.
"Their UHF (emergency frequency was down, their system through Motorola was down, so we're working with them through AT&T to get them something," he said.
Scott said roads west, including Interstate 10, had reopened late in the day. But he urged Floridians, as he has in several briefings, to continue to exercise caution by staying off the roads and in operating generators.
Scott also surveyed Bay Medical Center, one of the hospitals that had been evacuated as a result of the hurricane — reuniting one National Guard member with his mother, who had been in the hospital.
"He got to see his mom, which was nice," Scott said. "He was very emotional about that, but he was doing his job. He was not going to not do his job."
News reports said the count of those dead had risen to six by Thursday, but Scott's office had said additional deaths would need to be confirmed by a medical examiner. When asked about any further fatalities, Scott noted at least two deaths — one in Gadsden County, another in Georgia — and suggested the death toll might climb.
"I don't think they've gotten through everything," he said of search and rescue teams. "We have a lot of law enforcement coming in."