AP Photos: Hurricane leaves Florida’s Mexico Beach in shreds

  • Homes are left swept off their foundations from the effects of Hurricane Michael, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Homes are left swept off their foundations from the effects of Hurricane Michael, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Emergency workers Dr. Patricia Cantrell, left, and Ana Kaufmann, with the South Florida Search and Rescue Task Force 2, survey damage at the western edge of town in Mexico Beach, Fla., after Hurricane Michael swept through the area Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

  • Firefighter Austin Schlarb performs a door to door search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

  • The coastal township of Mexico Beach, Fla., lays devastated on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, after Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

  • Rescue personnel perform a search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

  • Kylie Strampe holds her four-month-old daughter, Lola, while surveying the damage from Hurricane Michael after riding out the storm in Callaway, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — Hurricane Michael all but erased the tiny community of Mexico Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast, reducing some homes to mere concrete slabs and leaving others in shreds.

Rescuers and residents struggled Thursday to get into town to assess the damage and search for the missing after it was slammed by 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a 9-foot (2.7-meter) storm surge.

The town of about 1,200 residents had been a quiet weekend retreat for tourists and residents of the state capital, Tallahassee, offering a handful of independent hotels and restaurants. Many of those buildings are now destroyed.

Debris now litters the town’s streets, jammed together helter-skelter with vehicles and boats.

The area is on the western stretch of what’s called Florida’s Forgotten Coast, so named because it doesn’t have the heavy development of places like Panama City. Instead of students on spring break, it attracts visitors looking for quiet weekends and local oysters.

Just to the east and west, cities like Panama City, Springfield, Callaway and Port St. Joe also were badly damaged, with roofs torn off of buildings and stretches of U.S. 98 rendered impassable. In Panama City Beach, the roof of a large boat storage facility collapsed onto about 300-400 boats.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio remarked on Twitter that Mexico Beach was a slice of “old” Florida. “Its charm is that it feels like a trip back in time to a place unspoiled by development. I was told this morning that it is ‘gone.’”

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