Search and rescue teams found a body in Mexico Beach on Friday, a Florida panhandle city that was nearly wiped out by Hurricane Michael, as authorities said there was little doubt that the toll would continue to rise.
The true number of lives lost in the South was unclear, as the reports were different, but on Friday night, the official fee was 14, including the victim found in the rubble of Mexico Beach.
Joseph Zahralban, head of the search and rescue department in the 1000-soul community, said, "We have confirmed a dead man and are working to see if there are others left."
Zahralban said searchers using a trained dog tried to find out if this person was alone or part of a family. He spoke as his team finished its two-day quest. Mexico Beach was nearly wiped out by Micahel's storm surge and 155mph winds when the Category 4 hurricane landed on Wednesday.
Michael was one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the US, and this Gulf Coast community was in their bullseye. Some residents stayed to meet it. Houses were pushed away from their foundations and the residential districts sank.
Hector Morales, a 57-year-old cook, never thought to evacuate. When his camper suddenly started swimming, he swam to a fishing boat and climbed aboard.
"I lost everything," Morales said. "But I did it."
Civil servants said that according to a census, 285 people in Mexico Beach resisted compulsory evacuation orders. Emergency officials said they had carried out a first "hasty search" of the devastation, looking for the living or the dead, and started more careful inspections of the destroyed buildings. They hope to complete these inspections later on Saturday.
They have received thousands of calls asking for missing persons, but with a mobile phone service in a wide range, they found it impossible to know who was safe among the undeclared.
Bill Shockey, 86, refused to leave Mexico Beach despite requests from his daughter. He said he did not want to leave his collection of gone with the wind dishes and antique dolls. So he hid her in a closet before going to his daughter's new two-story home.
With a bag full of cigars and his cat Andy, Shockey watched as the hurricane struck. The wind tore the roof of his one-story house. Water rose almost to the top of his garage door. The house of a neighbor across the street was torn from its foundations.
Was he afraid? "I'm worried, I think it's more like that," Shockey said.
His daughter's house was flooded, but was otherwise unharmed. Shockey's own home of 24 was not doing so well, though his collectibles survived.
"It's a way out," he said Friday, adding that he plans to sell. "Whenever they want, I'll move in with my son in Georgia."
Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said he expects the death toll to increase.
"We still have not arrived in the worst affected areas," he said. "Few people live to tell what it's like to experience storm surges, and unfortunately we do not seem to learn the lesson in this country."
On Friday, the authorities began setting up distribution centers to distribute food and water.
"I did not recognize anything," said 25-year-old Tiffany Marie Plushnik, an evacuee who returned to a house in Sandy Creek that was too damaged to live in. "Everything is gone, I did not even know our street was our street."
Elsewhere, Donald Trump announced plans to visit Florida and Georgia early next week. "We are with you!" He tweeted.
On the panhandle, Tyndall Air Force Base was "beaten", so Col Brian Laidlaw told the 3,600 men and women stationed on base that they would not return.
Many of the 600 families living there followed the order to pack everything they could in a single suitcase when they were evacuated. The hurricane eyewall went right over us, severely damaging nearly every building. The elementary school, the airline, the marina and the runways were devastated.
"I will not call you and your families back until we can guarantee your safety, at this time I can not tell you how long that will take, but I'm in it," Laidlaw wrote. "We need to restore basic utilities, clear our roads with trees and power lines, and evaluate the structural integrity of our buildings."