In Mexico Beach, Florida, the tiny Gulf of Mexico coastal hamlet virtually wiped off the U.S. map by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael, the reality of the long path to recovery is becoming apparent.
"Mexico Beach is devastated," Governor Rick Scott said of the town where the storm came ashore with 250-kilometer-an-hour winds in what was one of the most damaging hurricanes to hit the United States in decades.
"It's like a war zone," he said Saturday as he toured the town of 1,000 people.
One of the 17 deaths caused by the storm across four states occurred in Mexico Beach, an elderly man whose body was found hundreds of meters from his house. The Mexico Beach property damage was immense, with house after house, store after store leveled down to the concrete slabs they were built on.
Mexico Beach police chief Anthony Kelly told VOA's Spanish Service, "When you come here and see the devastation, it's hard, it's emotionally hard."
"We know each person in the majority of the houses. They know us," Kelly said. "All these people are close to us. And now we're going around the neighborhoods making sure that they're not in any of these houses that are so extremely damaged."
"Looking in the debris, seeing photos of grandkids, people that we know that have come back here year after year, that's the emotional side," he said. "I've got officers that this is their first catastrophic event, and it's hard to explain to them, you know, it's going to get better, because they're seeing reality."
The town's medical manager, Patricia Cantwell, said, "It's extremely sad that the devastation has been so rampant throughout the Panhandle" of the state.
"Having lived through Hurricane Andrew in south Florida [in 1992], it's going to take a while," she told VOA. "It's one day at a time. It looks overwhelming to start, but, you know, one day at a time. It's going to take years to get things back up and running."
Brock Long, the head of the country's Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the death toll in Mexico Beach could rise, as rescue workers continue to search the rubble left behind by the storm. It could take another 10 days to compile a damage estimate.
Some physical structures in the town were lifted off their moorings and moved hundreds of meters away by the winds and storm surge from the storm. Other buildings were left in masses of debris, demolished beyond recognition.
Jose Pernalete and Jorge Agobián of VOA Spanish Service contributed to this report.