(WFLA) - A large search and rescue mission is underway after Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida Panhandle Wednesday.
“Homes are gone, businesses are gone. Roads and infrastructures along the storm’s path have been destroyed,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott Thursday morning. “This hurricane was an absolute monster. The damage left in its wake is still yet to be fully understood.”
Scott said that there was one unconfirmed death believed to have been caused by Hurricane Michael in Gadsden County. He did not release any other details. “My heart goes out to that family,” he said. “I just hope we don’t have any additional deaths.”
The governor said the top focus right now is on search and rescue. He said that last night crews with the Florida National Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Highway Patrol, and utility, healthcare and transportation workers drove into the darkness to begin the rescue and recovery effort.
“The bravely of people doing this is unimaginable. Pray for each of these individuals. Our law enforcement and first responders are heroes and are leaving their families to help others. We cannot thank them enough.”
Last night, the teams worked in different quadrants of the storm-damaged area to get to communities. “This is a very dense part of the state. It’s going to be a lot of work to get to everybody.”
Scott said the Florida Department of Transportation is leading a massive effort to clear debris along critical roadways, so first responders and other support teams can transport food, water and supplies.
More than 1,000 search and rescue personnel have also been deployed. Some have already moved into Panama City and Mexico Beach, Tyndall, Alligator Point and Carrabelle.
3,500 Florida National Guardsmen have been deployed with more than 1,000+ high water vehicles, 13 helicopters and 16 boats. Nine other states are sending 15 aviation units to assist with search and rescue efforts.
The governor said more than 1,880 members of local law enforcement agencies are ready to complete missions. 450 Florida Highway Patrol troopers are also responding, many drove through the night to get to the Panhandle.
On Thursday morning, Governor Scott and the Florida National Guard will assess damage in Panama City and Mexico Beach.
The governor also warned that the danger is not over yet, even though the storm has passed. He wants people who live in areas impacted by Michael to be safe. “Listen to local officials. Do not got out and explore the damage, let the professionals do that.”
“You will only put your own life and the lives of others at risk if you venture out onto unsafe roads," Scott said residents should stay inside their homes. The hurricane downed power lines and left flooding which can be dangerous.
“If you and your family made it through the storm safely, which I prayed that you did. The worst thing that you can do now is to act foolishly and put yourself and your family in danger.”
Scott also reminded people to be safe if they’re using generators. Don’t put a generator in your home and be sure to follow instructions for safe use.