Reports over the weekend put the storm’s death toll across several southern states at 18, with the potential for more loss of life as the rescue efforts continue.
Over the weekend, Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey expressed optimism about the rescue efforts, noting that residents had received food and water, and that some cellphone service had been restored, according to the Associated Press. Mexico Beach has not confirmed any deaths from the storm, but Cathey said, “If we lose only one life, to me that’s going to be a miracle.”
As of Sunday night, 700,000 people across five southern states were without power, including a total of 188,000 in Florida, ABC News reported.
According to Mayor Cathey, an estimated 289 Mexico Beach residents stayed behind when the storm hit, including 10 children. For many people, evacuating before hurricane wasn’t possible. Some people don’t have access to vehicles, and travel can be costly.
Police in the small town of just 1,200 residents took note of those who decided to stay behind, but some may have decided to leave during or after the storm hit. Officials say it is impossible to know for sure.