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Hurricane Michael updates: President Trump tours devastated Florida communities

Coastal Bay County still 'waiting' on Verizon cell service response

MEXICO BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 11: Members of the South Florida Search and Rescue team search for survivors in the destruction left after Hurricane Michael passed through the area on October 11, 2018 in Mexico Beach, Florida. The hurricane hit the panhandle area with category 4 winds causing major damage. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MEXICO BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 11: Members of the South Florida Search and Rescue team search for survivors in the destruction left after Hurricane Michael passed through the area on October 11, 2018 in Mexico Beach, Florida. The hurricane hit the panhandle area with category 4 winds causing major damage. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) (Getty Images)


EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Less than a week after the Florida Panhandle took a direct hit from Hurricane Michael more than 190,000 homes and businesses in Florida remain without electricity, along with about 120,000 homes and businesses in Georgia.

The death toll stood at 17 across the states impacted by Hurricane Michael, including one confirmed death in Florida.

On Monday, while rescuers in the Florida continue to search for missing people President Trump and the first lady are touring some of the areas hardest hit by Michael.

Here's the latest on Trump's visit and recovery efforts underway in Florida (all times local):

6:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump has heard from Georgia farmers whose crops were wiped out by Hurricane Michael.

Trump on Monday visited a farm near Macon where fourth-generation farmer Kevin Rentz grows cotton and peanuts. Rentz said he lost 100 percent of his cotton crop. He says they're still digging up peanuts but the problem is finding someplace to take them, given the power outages.

Another farmer, Clay Pickle, said he went from his "best crop to no crop in six hours." Pickle says cotton was his best crop.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says damage to pecan groves in southwest Georgia will be felt for generations. Perdue says pecan trees typically bear nuts about seven years after planting but don't become profitable for about a decade. Perdue called the situation "heartbreaking."

5 p.m.

Researchers at the University of Florida estimate that Florida's cotton crop has been nearly decimated by Hurricane Michael's rampage.

Researchers at the school's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences said Monday that about 90 percent of Florida's cotton crop remained in the fields when Michael struck. They also estimate that about 40 percent of Florida's peanut crop is lost.

The researchers say they haven't yet calculated the value of Florida's crop losses from the Category 4 hurricane, which crashed ashore last Wednesday. They say the hurricane potentially impacted 3.6 million acres of upland forest and 1 million acres of field crops in Florida.

Florida's most famous crops, oranges and grapefruit, weren't affected much by the storm since they are primarily grown in areas south of Orlando away from the storm's track.

5:00 p.m.

Experts say Hurricane Michael failed to break up a patchy and toxic algae bloom in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida.

That means the red tide could continue to cause problems in the weeks ahead.

University of South Florida professor Robert Weisberg says hurricanes can break up algae blooms. But they also drop fresh water and increase nutrient-rich runoff from land, which makes them worse. 

Weisberg says Michael blew red tide at the water's surface into shore, but deep ocean currents that have been feeding the bloom since the summer also have persisted.

Tracy Fanara at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota says satellite imagery shows "anomaly" in the waters off the Panhandle and southwest Florida. She says water samples likely will confirm red tide in those areas.

4:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived in Georgia to survey damage by Hurricane Michael.

The president and first lady Melania Trump arrived at Robins Air Force Base on Monday afternoon. State and local officials were to brief the president at the base.

The White House says Trump then plans to visit a farm and meet farmers who lost crops after the powerful storm raced through Georgia last week on its way to the Carolinas and Virginia after first dealing a crushing blow to the Florida Panhandle.

Trump flew to Georgia from Florida, where he surveyed hurricane damage in several Panhandle communities by air, land and foot.

1:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump is marveling at the hurricane damage he's seen while touring devastated Florida Panhandle communities.

Trump and his wife, Melania, visited a FEMA aid distribution center Monday in the city of Lynn Haven. People there were signing up for temporary housing and picking up clothing, diapers, water and other supplies. Trump says someone described Hurricane Michael to him as being "like a very wide - extremely wide - tornado."

He also marveled at how massive trees were "just ripped out of the earth." Said Trump: "This is really incredible."

The president and first lady also help distribute cases of bottled water and chatted with residents.

A woman in a green Philadelphia Eagles T-shirt thanked the first lady for her anti-bullying campaign.

Noon

President Donald Trump got a bird's-eye view of Florida Panhandle communities shattered by Hurricane Michael.

The president initially saw uprooted trees and houses with blue tarps covering damaged roofs after taking off from Eglin Air Force Base by helicopter. But the severity of the damage worsened as Trump approached the town of Mexico Beach. Reporters trailed him in a separate helicopter.

A water tower lay on its side. Eighteen-wheelers were scattered in a parking lot like children's toys. Many houses had no roofs or had been ripped from their foundations.

Trump also saw Tyndall Air Force Base, which was heavily damaged by Michael.

The president is back on the ground near Panama City after the nearly hour-long aerial tour.

11:01 p.m.

President Donald Trump is praising Florida Gov. Rick Scott for his response to Hurricane Michael.

Scott greeted Trump when he arrived in Florida on Monday to get his first up-close look at the devastation the storm caused along the Florida Panhandle.

Trump says "the job they've done is Florida has been incredible." He also thanked Scott and told him he's a "great governor."

Scott says he's gotten everything he's asked for from the federal government.

The Florida Panhandle took a direct hit from Michael. More than 190,000 homes and businesses in Florida remain without electricity. Trump praised electric company crews for helping restore some power.

Trump and his wife, Melania, were headed out on an aerial tour of affected areas.

[RESOURCES: Here's how to help Hurricane Michael victims in Florida | How to check if your loved one is safe after Hurricane Michael]

11 a.m.

Florida officials are criticizing telecommunications carrier Verizon for taking too long to get cellphone service restored for parts of Florida's Panhandle.

Gov. Rick Scott late Sunday mentioned that residents in coastal Bay County were still "waiting" on Verizon while AT&T was working in the county hit hard by Hurricane Michael.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis expressed his frustration at Verizon on Twitter on Monday. He said that the company had no service in Bay County for six days and that "we need the same response" from Verizon as "we have seen from our electric companies."

Patronis is from Bay County and his family owns a restaurant in Panama City Beach.

Verizon responded back on Twitter telling Patronis it was working "urgently" and that the company "knows how important the ability to connect is, especially when storms happen."

11 a.m.

President Donald Trump is heading to Florida and Georgia to view the destruction left by Hurricane Michael.

Trump says in a tweet that he and first lady Melania Trump are going to review hurricane damage and visit with Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel and other officials.

The president's tweet adds that "maximum effort is taking place" and that "everyone is working very hard."

1 a.m.

Upon touring the damage in several towns along Florida's Panhandle, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long called the destruction left by Hurricane Michael some of the worst he's ever seen.

On Monday, President Donald Trump plans to visit Florida and Georgia and see the recovery effort for himself. Trump declared a state of emergency for Georgia late Sunday.

In hurricane-flattened Mexico Beach, crews cleared debris Sunday as the mayor held out hope for the 250 or so residents who may have tried to ride out the storm.

The death toll from Michael's destructive march from Florida to Virginia stood at 17, with just one confirmed death in Mexico Beach. Mayor Al Cathey said it would be a "miracle" if the town's death toll stays at one after it took a direct hit from the hurricane.