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Harrowing survival tales

Residents of Mexico Beach that stayed during the storm are emerging from the debris with harrowing tales. Others, who evacuated, are coming to grips with the fact that much of their community was destroyed by Hurricane Michael.

Hit head-on by the storm, numerous homes in this Gulf Coast resort town of about 1,190 people were shattered or ripped from their foundations. Boats were tossed like toys. The streets closest to the water looked as if a bomb had gone off.

What the 9-foot (2.7-meter) storm surge didn't destroy, the 155 mph (250 kph) winds finished off.

Now, rescuers and residents are struggling to get into the ground-zero town to assess the damage and search for the hundreds of people believed to have stayed behind.

Linda Marquardt, 67, rode out the storm with her husband at their home in Mexico Beach. When the house filled with storm surge water, they fled upstairs.

"All of my furniture was floating," she said Thursday. "A river just started coming down the road. It was awful, and now there's just nothing left."

She said their home is full of mud.

"We'll have to bulldoze and start over."

Drone footage of Mexico Beach showed a stunning landscape of devastation. Few structures were unscathed.

John Humphress, a storm chaser and drone pilot, arrived around 5 p.m. Wednesday, a few hours after Michael slammed into the coastline. He had one word to describe what he saw: "apocalyptic."

State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order.

A National Guard team went into the area and found 20 survivors Wednesday night, and more crews pushed into the stricken zone on Thursday. The fate of many other residents was unknown, authorities said.



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