Hurricane Michael updates: Woman's body recovered from flooding in Virginia

Power, cellphone service starting to be restored

State Road 98 is torn up after Hurricane Michael passed through the area on October 12, 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, Fla. - The US death toll from Hurricane Michael has risen to at least 17 -- including five in Virginia and eight in Florida -- and it's expected to climb.

Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban, leader of a search-and-rescue unit that entered Mexico Beach, said Friday that the team confirmed one fatality and is still trying to determine if there are others.

Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long says he expects to see the death toll rise. Says Long: "We still haven't gotten into the hardest-hit areas."

Michael crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to make a U.S. landfall.

Here's the latest on the aftermath of Hurricane Michael (all times local):

7:25 p.m.

The first debate between the two candidates running for Florida governor is going to be cancelled due to Hurricane Michael.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum announced Saturday on Facebook that he cannot get back out on the campaign trail until at least next Wednesday due to damage caused by the storm.

The Democratic nominee for governor was scheduled to debate Republican Ron DeSantis Tuesday in Orlando. Gillum said that he could not leave town if thousands of residents were still without power.

More than 110,000 customers of the Tallahassee-owned electric company lost power as a result of Hurricane Michael's high winds that brought down hundreds of trees across the city. There were about 30,000 city customers still without power Saturday night.

There are two other debates scheduled.

7:25 p.m.

North Carolina's top Republican legislative leaders say they're prepared to approve nearly $800 million for Hurricane Florence recovery when the General Assembly reconvenes Monday.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger on Saturday announced support to appropriate $794 million. Most would come from the state's rainy-day reserves.

This past week, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper unveiled a detailed $1.5 billion relief request, for which he sought $750 million immediately. Moore and Berger's offices said in a news release they'll give Cooper and state agencies maximum spending flexibility while damage assessments continue.

Cooper's plan focused on helping farmers and businesses and repairing homes, roads, schools and other government buildings. Republicans say they'll also back Cooper's request for a new hurricane recovery office.

The legislature approved an initial recovery bill Oct. 2.

6:30 p.m.

Authorities in Virginia say a rescue team has recovered the remains of a woman who had been missing since she was swept away in flash flooding during Tropical Storm Michael.

Virginia State Police said in a news release Saturday evening that a volunteer K-9 rescue team found 62-year-old Ruby S. Allen's body earlier in the day.

The state Department of Emergency Management says the discovery brings the total of storm-related deaths in Virginia to six.

Four others, including Allen's son, died in flooding, and a firefighter was killed when a tractor-trailer struck a fire engine.

Authorities had previously said Allen, of Eureka, was presumed dead. She, her son and grandson were in a car when it became stranded on a bridge.

State police say Allen and 36-year-old Ronnie Allen were swept away. Ronnie Allen's 17-year-old son was rescued.

6:30 p.m.

Duke Energy says 10,000 people are working to restore power to about 175,000 customers across the Carolinas in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Michael.

The company said in a news release Saturday that power had been restored to more than 900,000 customers in the two states over the 48 hours since the storm passed through.

Duke says Guilford, Rockingham, Alamance and Caswell counties in North Carolina were among the hardest hit.

Crews from other states are assisting Carolinas-based line workers.

An online outage map shows reported outages and estimated restoration times.

5:15 p.m.

Gov. Rick Scott says about 1,700 total search and rescue personnel are in Florida and so far have checked 25,000 homes statewide.

Scott spoke with reporters Saturday after meeting with emergency responders in the Panama City area. He says the state is working to help distribute food and water to affected residents.

In the meantime, more than 17,000 utility workers are busy restoring power to 245,000 Florida homes and businesses still without electricity.

The governor said he understands that many suffering after Michael are tense. He says he feels sorry for people who have lost their homes and do not have much savings.

He said, "Everybody just needs to help each other right now."

The tally of lives lost across the South stands at 14, including one person found in the rubble of Mexico Beach, where about 1,000 people live.

4:35 p.m.

The main Florida utility that serves most of the Panhandle is warning that some people may be without power for weeks due to Hurricane Michael.

Gulf Power officials said Saturday that some areas of Bay County on Florida's coast could get their power restored in the next two days.

The company said that it may take six days to restore electricity to three counties near the Georgia border.

Gulf Power officials, however, did not yet have estimates on how long it will take to restore power for downtown Panama City and other towns on the coast.

More than 253,000 customers remain without power in the Panhandle. Thousands of utility linemen have been brought to help with the recovery effort.

4:35 p.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is calling up 500 more members of the state's national guard as the state mounts a massive recovery effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

Scott has now called up 4,000 members of the Florida National Guard to deal with the deadly storm.

The National Guard is in addition to nearly 2,000 law-enforcement officials that have also been brought into the Panhandle.

The guard members have been helping out with search and rescue efforts but are also being used to distribute supplies in 11 counties.

Florida plans on distributing more than three million meals and two million gallons of water. Volunteer organizations are also setting up mobile kitchens across the region and plan to distribute 10,000 meals alone in the Panama City region.

3:55 p.m.

Rescuers are intensifying efforts to find survivors who might be trapped amid the ruins of a small Florida Panhandle community nearly obliterated by Hurricane Michael.

Crews with dogs went door-to-door in Mexico Beach on Saturday and pushed aside debris to get inside badly damage structures in a second wave of searches after an initial, hasty search.

Authorities say there is little doubt the death toll will rise from the storm, which made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds (249 kph) and heavy storm surge.

The tally of lives lost across the South stood at 14, including one person found in the rubble of Mexico Beach, where about 1,000 people live.

11 a.m.

Power and cellphone service are starting to be restored in parts of Florida's storm-battered Panhandle.

State emergency management officials reported Saturday that nearly 264,000 customers remain without electricity in the state.

They also said that 80 percent of cellphone service has been restored throughout the region hit by Hurricane Michael. But the numbers remain high in the hardest-hit areas.

Bay County, which is where Panama City is located, only has 30 percent cellphone coverage. Nearly 100,000 customers in that coastal county also remain without power. Smaller coastal counties south of Panama City and rural north Florida counties also remain in the dark.

Lights have been coming back on in Tallahassee. More than 100,000 city utility customers lost power right after the storm, but as of Saturday there were about 40,000 who remained without electricity.

9 a.m.

The White House has issued an emergency declaration for the state of Alabama in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

President Donald Trump on Friday declared that an emergency exists in Alabama and ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal, and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from the hurricane starting Oct. 10 and continuing.

Under the declaration, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.  Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding in Dale, Geneva, Henry, and Houston counties.

Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent funding in Baldwin, Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Coffee, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw, Escambia, Mobile, Montgomery, Pike, and Russell counties and the Poarch Creek Band of Indians.

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10 p.m. Friday

The Internal Revenue Service says victims of Hurricane Michael will get a grace period before having to file some tax returns and payments.

The IRS said Friday it's offering the relief in parts of Florida and other regions that may be added later to the disaster area as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Individuals who had a valid extension to Oct. 15 for filing their 2017 return now will have until Feb. 28, 2019, to file. Because tax payments related to the 2017 returns were due on April 18, however, those payments don't qualify for relief.

The new Feb. 28 deadline also applies to quarterly estimated income-tax payments normally due on Jan. 15, 2019, and to quarterly payroll and excise tax returns due on Oct. 31, 2018 and Jan. 31, 2019. The IRS says it will automatically provide relief for people with addresses in the counties designated a disaster area.

Taxpayers who qualify for relief but live outside the disaster area can call the IRS at 866-562-5227.

Watch drone video below showing the extensive damage in Mexico Beach, Florida:

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