Mexico Beach residents return home again _ some to no home

Mexico Beach residents return home again _ some to no home
Nancy Register weeps as she is comforted by Roxie Cline, right, after she lost her home and all the contents inside to Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. Register said she doesn't know how she and her husband will make it through this, saying they only have money to last them four more days. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (Gerald Herbert)

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — With stunned faces and tears, residents of hard-hit Mexico Beach returned home for the first time Wednesday about a week after Hurricane Michael hit to find pieces of their lives scattered across the sand and a community altered.

Nancy Register sobbed uncontrollably after finding no trace of the large camper where she'd lived with her husband. She was particularly distraught over the loss of an old, black-and-white photo of her mother, who died of cancer.

Husband Taylor Register said he found nothing but a stool that he uses for cutting his hair, a hose and a keepsake rock that was given to him by a friend 40 years ago.

"That's my belongings," he said, pointing to a small pile beside his red pickup truck. Choking up, he said: "I appreciate God humbling me. Everybody needs it."

Just up the road, tears ran down Lanie Eden's face as she and husband Ron Eden sifted through sand in search of items they left before evacuating from the small beach house they've rented each October for years. They didn't find much - just a large pack of toilet paper that somehow stayed dry and a son's camp chair.

Ronnie Poole walks through debris as he checks on a friend's home in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Ronnie Poole walks through debris as he checks on a friend's home in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

The Edens, who are from Fort Knox, Kentucky, and are temporarily staying in Alabama, were stunned to see mountains of debris and countless destroyed buildings as they drove into town for the first time. In a state of condominium towers, Mexico Beach was one of the few remaining places with small houses and a 1950s feel.

Lanie Eden cries as she looks for her family's possessions in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. They evacuated just before the storm. She said the family had so many cherished memories there, that it's like losing part of your family. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Lanie Eden cries as she looks for her family's possessions in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. They evacuated just before the storm. She said the family had so many cherished memories there, that it's like losing part of your family. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

"Basically, we lost 'old Florida.' It's all gone," said Lanie Eden.

Nancy Register, right, weeps as she is comforted by Roxie Cline, after she lost her home and all the contents inside to Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. Register said she doesn't know how she and her husband will make it through this, saying they only have money to last them four more days. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Nancy Register, right, weeps as she is comforted by Roxie Cline, after she lost her home and all the contents inside to Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. Register said she doesn't know how she and her husband will make it through this, saying they only have money to last them four more days. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

Residents among the community of about 1,200 people who rode out the storm at home have been in Mexico Beach since Michael hit. But officials used the city's Facebook page to tell others to stay away for a week after the Category 4 storm ravaged the beach town with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a strong storm surge.

Lanie Eden and her husband Ron stand in the destroyed vacation home they rented every year as they look for their possessions in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. They evacuated just before the storm. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Lanie Eden and her husband Ron stand in the destroyed vacation home they rented every year as they look for their possessions in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. They evacuated just before the storm. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

State emergency management officials said some 124,500 customers across the Panhandle were still without power Wednesday morning and 1,157 remained in shelters.

Nancy Register cries in her vehicle after losing her home to Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. She said she doesn't know how they are going to make it through this and that they only have money to last them four more days. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Nancy Register cries in her vehicle after losing her home to Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. She said she doesn't know how they are going to make it through this and that they only have money to last them four more days. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

In Bay County, home to Mexico Beach and Panama City, more than half of the households and businesses remained without electricity. Inland, in Calhoun County, 98 percent of the customers didn't have power Wednesday morning, according to the emergency management website. And in Jackson County, which borders Alabama and Georgia, about 83 percent were without power.

Christina Amanda, right, and Connie Huff, wait for an insurance adjuster as they look for their possessions at the site of their destroyed home in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Christina Amanda, right, and Connie Huff, wait for an insurance adjuster as they look for their possessions at the site of their destroyed home in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

In the meantime, in many areas devastated by the hurricane, law enforcement officials are battling looting of homes and businesses.

Lynn Ballard, and search dog Toby, of the Boone County, Mo. Urban Search and Rescue team, search rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Lynn Ballard, and search dog Toby, of the Boone County, Mo. Urban Search and Rescue team, search rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

Bay County Sheriff's Maj. Jimmy Stanford said deputies have arrested about 10 looters each night since the storm hit. In some parts of the county, residents have spray-painted signs warning that "looters will be shot."

Neighbors Bob Coleman, left, and Ron Adkisson, search the sites of their former homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Neighbors Bob Coleman, left, and Ron Adkisson, search the sites of their former homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

Panama City resident Wes Allen said looters have been a constant problem at the badly damaged motel where he is staying with his wife and three children. Residents have formed a nighttime patrol to keep an eye out for thieves.

Ron Eden shows a photo of his annual vacation rental, which his family was in before they fled Hurricane Michael just before it hit, in front of the remnants of the home, in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Ron Eden shows a photo of his annual vacation rental, which his family was in before they fled Hurricane Michael just before it hit, in front of the remnants of the home, in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

"We've got looters breaking in and stealing whatever they can," he said. Allen said he hasn't reported the thefts to police because authorities seem so busy with other things.

Toby, a search dog for the Boone County, Mo. Urban Search and Rescue team, sniffs through rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Toby, a search dog for the Boone County, Mo. Urban Search and Rescue team, sniffs through rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

Often the looters have been armed, Stanford said.

Roxie Cline surveys the damage in the vicinity of her destroyed motor home that she lived in, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Roxie Cline surveys the damage in the vicinity of her destroyed motor home that she lived in, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

"Most of our officers lost their homes, have been working 16- to 18-hour shifts with no sleep, no shower, and now they're encountering armed individuals," he said. "It's a stressful time for everyone in Bay County."

Christina Amanda, right, and Connie Huff, wait for an insurance adjuster as they look for their possessions at the site of their destroyed home in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Christina Amanda, right, and Connie Huff, wait for an insurance adjuster as they look for their possessions at the site of their destroyed home in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

The storm killed at least 16 people in Florida, most of them in the coastal county that took a direct hit from the storm, state emergency authorities announced Tuesday. That's in addition to at least 10 deaths in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Toby, a search dog for the Boone County, Mo. Urban Search and Rescue team, sniffs through rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Toby, a search dog for the Boone County, Mo. Urban Search and Rescue team, sniffs through rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

The state's tally did not provide details of how the victims' deaths were storm-related, and The Associated Press was not immediately able to confirm those details for all of them. The AP's tally of deaths, in which authorities have confirmed details of how people died, stood at eight in Florida, and 18 overall including other states.

Neighbors Bob Coleman, left, and Ron Adkisson, search the sites of their former homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Neighbors Bob Coleman, left, and Ron Adkisson, search the sites of their former homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

In Mexico Beach, what had been a town of about 1,200, residents don't expect power or anything else anytime soon.

Lynn Ballard, and search dog Toby, of the Boone County, Mo. Urban Search and Rescue team, search rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Lynn Ballard, and search dog Toby, of the Boone County, Mo. Urban Search and Rescue team, search rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

Carlton Hundley, 25, returned to the house he rented with his girlfriend Connie Huff to find nothing but a long pile of shattered wood. What few possessions they found, including one of his shoes, were scattered across the ground.

Ron Eden shows a photo of his annual vacation rental, which his family was in before they fled Hurricane Michael just before it hit, in front of the remnants of the home, in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Ron Eden shows a photo of his annual vacation rental, which his family was in before they fled Hurricane Michael just before it hit, in front of the remnants of the home, in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

"I knew it was bad, I'd already seen the pictures. But it's a lot more than I thought," he said.

A picturesque view is seen through the window of a destroyed vacation home in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
A picturesque view is seen through the window of a destroyed vacation home in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP)

Roxie Cline, 65, was overcome with emotion as she tried to describe the destruction in Mexico Beach, where she and her husband had lived for three years.

In this Oct. 10, 2018 photo Shauna Benefield and Alex Edwards stand near a sign warning looters in front of their house in Marianna, Fla., which was damaged by fallen trees during Hurricane Michael. Armed looters are targeting homes and businesses that remain without electricity after being ravaged by Hurricane Michael a week ago. (AP Photo/Brendan Farrington)
In this Oct. 10, 2018 photo Shauna Benefield and Alex Edwards stand near a sign warning looters in front of their house in Marianna, Fla., which was damaged by fallen trees during Hurricane Michael. Armed looters are targeting homes and businesses that remain without electricity after being ravaged by Hurricane Michael a week ago. (AP Photo/Brendan Farrington) (AP)

"I can't, I can't," she said, tearing up. "It's devastating. You lose everything. Everybody has."

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Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, and Freida Frisaro in Miami contributed to this report.

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For the latest on Hurricane Michael, visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes .