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Mexico Beach, Fla.

Bela (L) and Jaques Sebastiao begin the process of cleaning up their home after it was heavily damaged by Hurricane Michael, on Oct. 17, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Returning home — Panhandle residents rebuild lives after Hurricane Michael

Missing relatives and worries that looters are just outside the door. Dirty clothes. Hours-long lines for gasoline, insurance adjusters, food and water. No power, no air conditioning, no schools, no information and little real improvement in sight.

Daily life is a series of fears and frustrations, both large and small, for thousands of people living on the edge, more than a week after Hurricane Michael flattened thousands of square miles in the hurricane zone of the Florida Panhandle.

With power still out in much of the Panhandle and thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged by Michael, almost nothing is normal. Even simple tasks are difficult or impossible.

Driving times are doubled or tripled because roads are clogged with police and fire vehicles, utility trucks, returning residents and people seeking help. Lines are long outside a discount store where more than two dozen insurance, financial services and cellphone companies have set up in a temporary village of open-sided tents erected on asphalt.

Unseasonably warm temperatures in the 80s are adding to the misery because so few people can cool down with air conditioning. Bottled water is plentiful at roadside aid stations; ice is another matter.

Spotty cellphone service leaves those most vulnerable with little information to help them get by. Residents in Panama City eagerly ask for information about what happened 20 miles away in devastated Mexico Beach, and for tips on finding pharmacies, coin-operated laundries and stores that might sell batteries to power flashlights with fading beams. (AP)

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