Search crews look for the dead and the living in Florida

Damaged boats sit among debris in a marina in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Florida authorities fielded a barrage of calls about people missing in Hurricane Michael's aftermath as search-and-rescue teams Friday made their way through ravaged neighborhoods, looking for victims dead or alive. The death toll stood at 13 across the South.

The number of dead was expected to rise, but authorities scrapped plans for setting up a temporary morgue, indicating they had yet to see signs of mass casualties from the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in nearly 50 years.

David Blackston climbs a damaged stairway to check on his second floor apartment in the aftermath of hurricane Michael in Callaway, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Blackston and his wife evacuated to a hotel in Alabama on Monday ahead of the storm. (AP Pho
Members of an Indiana urban search and rescue team check an apartment building for residents in the aftermath of hurricane Michael in Callaway, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A soldier stands guard at the damaged entrance to Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in the aftermath of hurricane Michael. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
An airplane hanger at Tyndall Air Force Base is damaged from hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Matthew, left, and wife Wimlin Washington, with their daughter Mia, 3, visit their damaged Thai restaurant in the aftermath of hurricane Michael in Callaway, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A building at the Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart hospital stands damaged from hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Damaged boats sit among debris in a marina in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A man walks through the damaged historical downtown district in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Search teams continued to pick their way through the ruins of Mexico Beach, the ground-zero town of about 1,000 people that was nearly wiped off the map when Michael blew ashore there on Wednesday with devastating 155 mph (249 kph) winds.

State officials said that by one count, 285 people in Mexico Beach defied mandatory evacuation orders and stayed behind. Whether any of them got out at some point was unclear.

State emergency officials said they have received thousands of calls asking about missing people. But with cellphone service out across vast swaths of the Florida Panhandle, officials said it is possible some of those unaccounted for haven't been able to contact friends or family to let them know they are safe.

Gov. Rick Scott said state officials still "do not know enough" about the fate of those who stayed behind in the region.

"We are not completely done. We are still getting down there," the governor added.

Emergency officials said they had done an initial "hasty search" of 80 percent of the stricken area, looking for the living or the dead.

Shell-shocked survivors who barely escaped with their lives told of terrifying winds, surging floodwaters and homes cracking like eggs.

Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said he expects to see the death toll rise.

"We still haven't gotten into the hardest-hit areas," he said, adding with frustration: "Very few people live to tell what it's like to experience storm surge, and unfortunately in this country we seem to not learn the lesson."

Long expressed worry that people have suffered "hurricane amnesia."

"When state and local officials tell you to get out, dang it, do it. Get out," he said.

Satellite image of Mexico Beach, Fla. on October 11, 2018, a day after Hurricane Michael hit the area. (Photo: NOAA)
Satellite image of Mexico Beach, Fla. on October 11, 2018, a day after Hurricane Michael hit the area. (Photo: NOAA)

Officials, meanwhile, set up distribution centers outside big stores such as Wal-Mart and Publix to pass out food and water to victims. Some supplies were brought in by trucks, while others had to be delivered by helicopter because some roads had yet to be cleared.

The deaths were spread throughout the storm's vast path, from Florida to Virginia, where at least five people drowned in flooding caused by Michael's rainy remnants.

On the Panhandle, Tyndall Air Force Base "took a beating," so much so that Col. Brian Laidlaw told the 3,600 men and women stationed on the base not to come back. Many of the 600 families who live there had followed orders to pack what they could in a single suitcase as they were evacuated.

A small "ride-out" team that hunkered down as the hurricane's eyewall passed directly overhead ventured out to find nearly every building severely damaged, many a complete loss. The elementary school, the flight line, the marina and the runways were devastated.

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Contributors in Florida include Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Panama City, Brendan Farrington in St. Marks, Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, and Jennifer Kay and Freida Frisaro in Miami. Others include Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland.

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