Search and rescue sweeps over in the Panhandle

Authorities said their teams have completed sweeps, but didn't give any finalized numbers of dead or injured from Hurricane Michael.

Emergency workers Dr. Patricia Cantrell, left, and Ana Kaufmann, with the South Florida Search and Rescue Task Force 2, survey damage at the western edge of Mexico Beach on Oct. 11, 2018. [Douglas R. Clifford | Florida Beach Insider photo]
Emergency workers Dr. Patricia Cantrell, left, and Ana Kaufmann, with the South Florida Search and Rescue Task Force 2, survey damage at the western edge of Mexico Beach on Oct. 11, 2018. [Douglas R. Clifford | Florida Beach Insider photo]

State officials say urban search and rescue teams have finished combing through Florida Panhandle communities devastated by Hurricane Michael, but had no update on how many more have been found dead or injured.

As of a briefing Thursday morning, the state's count of deaths attributable to the storm was 17, with 12 of those in Bay County where Michael made landfall eight days ago.

Local officials have confirmed at least eight more deaths, including 3 in in Jackson, 2 more in Gadsden and three additional deaths in Bay.

The final "secondary" search — which involves dogs and shoring up collapsed buildings — was "100 percent" completed overnight, though a few teams with dogs remain on the ground. State officials said that with the search and rescue missions complete, they are shifting gears toward recovery efforts and disaster assistance, particularly in the hardest hit counties.

More than 1,300 people remain in shelters as of Thursday morning. State officials said power is out for 114,903 people, though 98 percent of rural Calhoun County — home to about 14,500 — is still in the dark. Though "cut-and-toss" emergency debris removal has been completed on all state roads in every county, half a dozen crews are still clearing county roads in Calhoun, officials said.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration is hoping to open multiple hospitals before the end of the week and conducting site visits at Bay and Gulf hospitals Thursday, officials said. Calhoun Liberty Hospital in Blountstown was still undergoing repairs as of yesterday, they said.

Kevin Guthrie, the deputy chief of the State Emergency Response Team, said recovery efforts through the state emergency operations center are expected to continue for months.

This article originally appeared in the Tampa Bay Times on Oct. 18, 2018.

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This article was written by one or more Florida Beach Insider staff members.