PHOTO: WXChasing.com
Now playing
00:52
See Hurricane Michael's path of destruction
PHOTO: MyHeritage
Now playing
01:01
Watch old photos come to life using AI
PHOTO: CNN/Getty Images
Now playing
06:46
McEnany says she expected 'peaceful' rally on January 6. Keilar rolls the tape
Now playing
01:26
No, Tom Cruise isn't on TikTok. It's a deepfake
PHOTO: ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live
Now playing
02:02
Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall reunite in 'Coming 2 America'
PHOTO: Courtesy AirlingRatings.com
Now playing
03:06
Virgin Atlantic CEO: We support Covid vaccine passports
Now playing
01:19
Warren proposes wealth tax: 'It's time for them to pay a fair share'
Now playing
01:36
Marriott CEO: Vaccinations are 'the key' to travel recovery
Now playing
01:23
'There should be no threats': Biden's message to union-busters
Ashley Vanderbilt Former QAnon believer
PHOTO: CNN
Ashley Vanderbilt Former QAnon believer
Now playing
07:40
Former QAnon believer shares bonkers conspiracy theory about Biden
snl.fauci.vaccine.orig_00005420.png
snl.fauci.vaccine.orig_00005420.png
Now playing
01:24
'SNL' has 'Dr. Fauci' helping people get vaccinated
(CNN) —  

Mexico Beach, Florida, is not just destroyed. For the most part, it’s not there anymore.

Hurricane Michael’s wind and storm surge ripped up buildings like posies and carried them inland. Where homes and hotels once stood, offering premium views of the Gulf of Mexico, a few boards lay scattered across foundations.

A few structures in this town of 1,200 remain standing, but they’re the exceptions. And that’s not all that’s missing.

Hurricane Michael destrpyed homes in Mexico Beach, Florida.
PHOTO: Pool/Getty Images
Hurricane Michael destrpyed homes in Mexico Beach, Florida.

Food is in short supply. Residents are scavenging in the street for food that spilled out of a convenience store. The Red Cross is setting up feeding stations. Holmes County sheriff’s deputies are guarding goods and water trucks as they arrive.

The situation is so precarious that one local official is warning people to stay away.

“The more people that return, it’s just going to get in the way,” Mexico Beach councilwoman Linda Albrecht said. “Please don’t come down.”

’Our lives are gone’

While many cities along the Florida Panhandle enjoy the protection of various channel, barrier and tide islands, which can help stifle the impact of storm surge on the mainland, Mexico Beach sits between Crooked Island and the St. Joseph Peninsula, directly on the water.

Cars, mattresses, grills and toilets are tossed all over town. An entire house was thrown 100 yards down the beach, landing on its side.

“We had furniture in our house that wasn’t even ours,” resident Scott Boutwell said. When he returned to his home Thursday, he said the only belonging he could find was a briefcase.

Hurricane Michael carried a home across road and slammed it against a condo complex.
PHOTO: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Hurricane Michael carried a home across road and slammed it against a condo complex.

Search and rescue teams are heading to Mexico Beach, including Tennessee Task Force One, a FEMA Urban response team. The rubble piles and mangled structures, mixed with downed power lines and trees, are expected to complicate recovery efforts.

Rescuers have vowed to press on. In the meantime, residents are taking stock of the damage and looking for their neighbors.

Boutwell rode out the storm because he didn’t think it was going to be so bad. By the time he realized that wasn’t true, the bridges were already closed.

As Michael’s center passed near Mexico Beach, homes “tumbled and crashed” on the beach, Boutwell said. Cars floated by. Debris whipped through the air.

“When the water came in, houses started floating in front of our home,” he said. “Then everything just went black. You couldn’t see anything anywhere.”

When visibility returned, “we realized everything was gone,” Boutwell said, including his neighbor’s beach home and car. He said he thinks she was home when Michael hit. No one knows where she is, he said.

Everywhere he looks, the feeling of loss is palpable, he said.

“The thing is, this is a small little town,” he said. “Every restaurant’s gone, every store’s gone and then my neighbors – everybody’s homes are gone. … There’s nothing left here anymore.”

“When you think about it, our lives are gone. So what do you do?”

Rescuers search aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach.
PHOTO: Gerald Herbert/AP
Rescuers search aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach.

Recover could take years

Patricia Mulligan said she survived Hurricane Andrew in 1992, only to encounter the wrath of another storm Wednesday.

Mulligan and her family rode out Hurricane Michael in their Mexico Beach condo. She said she moved to the popular seaside destination, about 20 miles east of Panama City Beach, less than three months ago.

As the Category 4 storm’s center crossed nearby, Mulligan said, her concrete complex shook and vibrated against sustained winds of around 155 mph. Water seeped into her fourth-floor apartment.

When she dared to look outside, water was grazing the fronds of tall palm trees on the beach. Homes were swallowed in storm surge. Soon enough, Mexico Beach’s emerald waters and sugar-sand beaches were covered in a dark sea of debris, she said.

02:06 - Source: CNN
Woman trying to find brother after Michael
PHOTO: Lisa Baldwin
Now playing
02:06
Woman trying to find brother after Michael
PHOTO: Mandi Jackson
Now playing
00:47
Security camera shows yard turn into ocean
PHOTO: Johnny Milano/The New York Times/Redux
Now playing
00:17
The house that withstood a historic hurricane
hurricane michael mexico beach survivor
PHOTO: CNN
hurricane michael mexico beach survivor
Now playing
02:59
Survivor breaks down: Our lives are gone
Rev. Luke Farabaugh Panama City, Florida
PHOTO: CNN
Rev. Luke Farabaugh Panama City, Florida
Now playing
02:29
Priest on damage: Feels like a bomb went off
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:03
See Hurricane Michael destruction from the air
PHOTO: WXChasing.com
Now playing
00:52
See Hurricane Michael's path of destruction
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:46
Side-by-side images before and after storm hit
Hurricane Michael's powerful winds and devastating storm surge wreaked havoc in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Hurricane Michael's powerful winds and devastating storm surge wreaked havoc in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Now playing
01:08
Michael tears off roofs in Panama City Beach
CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam reports inside Hurricane Michael
CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam reports inside Hurricane Michael
Now playing
01:15
See inside the storm hour by hour
Now playing
01:07
See metal sheeting fly past CNN reporters
Loretta Denes and Martin Reed
PHOTO: CNN
Loretta Denes and Martin Reed
Now playing
02:13
Couple rides out hurricane in crawl space
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10:  Debris is blown down a street by Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane made landfall on the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10: Debris is blown down a street by Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane made landfall on the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:18
Watch Hurricane Michael's 155 mph winds
The International Space Station shared views of Hurricane Matthew as it approached the Florida Gulf Coast.
The International Space Station shared views of Hurricane Matthew as it approached the Florida Gulf Coast.
Now playing
00:47
See Hurricane Michael from space
panama city gym destroyed
PHOTO: wxchasing.com
panama city gym destroyed
Now playing
01:12
Drone footage shows gym devastated by storm
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:03
See Hurricane Michael destruction from the air
PHOTO: Lisa Baldwin
Now playing
02:06
Woman trying to find brother after Michael
PHOTO: Mandi Jackson
Now playing
00:47
Security camera shows yard turn into ocean
PHOTO: Johnny Milano/The New York Times/Redux
Now playing
00:17
The house that withstood a historic hurricane
hurricane michael mexico beach survivor
PHOTO: CNN
hurricane michael mexico beach survivor
Now playing
02:59
Survivor breaks down: Our lives are gone
Rev. Luke Farabaugh Panama City, Florida
PHOTO: CNN
Rev. Luke Farabaugh Panama City, Florida
Now playing
02:29
Priest on damage: Feels like a bomb went off
PHOTO: WXChasing.com
Now playing
00:52
See Hurricane Michael's path of destruction
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:46
Side-by-side images before and after storm hit
Hurricane Michael's powerful winds and devastating storm surge wreaked havoc in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Hurricane Michael's powerful winds and devastating storm surge wreaked havoc in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Now playing
01:08
Michael tears off roofs in Panama City Beach
CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam reports inside Hurricane Michael
CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam reports inside Hurricane Michael
Now playing
01:15
See inside the storm hour by hour
Now playing
01:07
See metal sheeting fly past CNN reporters
Loretta Denes and Martin Reed
PHOTO: CNN
Loretta Denes and Martin Reed
Now playing
02:13
Couple rides out hurricane in crawl space
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10:  Debris is blown down a street by Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane made landfall on the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10: Debris is blown down a street by Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane made landfall on the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:18
Watch Hurricane Michael's 155 mph winds
The International Space Station shared views of Hurricane Matthew as it approached the Florida Gulf Coast.
The International Space Station shared views of Hurricane Matthew as it approached the Florida Gulf Coast.
Now playing
00:47
See Hurricane Michael from space
panama city gym destroyed
PHOTO: wxchasing.com
panama city gym destroyed
Now playing
01:12
Drone footage shows gym devastated by storm

Michael ripped apart beach homes and boats, she said. As far as she could see, only one home was still intact. The rest were missing roofs or siding.

The marina her brother owns is submerged, she said. The docks are gone and several boats were capsized, including one belonging to her brother, she said.

“This is total devastation,” she told CNN. “We didn’t th