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Officials: 35 lives, $1.3 billion in timber lost to Michael

Destruction of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida. / Photo: James E. Wyatt / (MGN)
Destruction of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida. / Photo: James E. Wyatt / (MGN)(WJHG)
Published: Oct. 19, 2018 at 11:09 AM EDT
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The Latest on Hurricane Michael (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

Officials have confirmed the death of a 79-year-old Florida woman who has been missing since Hurricane Michael left her Mexico Beach home in rubble.

The Bay County medical examiner's office confirmed Friday that Aggie Vicari was the body recovered Monday. Family members say her body had been under rubble for five days before rescuers found her.

Vicari's niece, Joanne Garone Behnke, who lives hours away in South Florida, said the wait has been agonizing. She says her only prayer is that it was a quick, painless death.

Garone Behnke says she spoke to her aunt, whom she affectionately described as a "stubborn Italian woman," just hours before Michael's devastating winds came ashore.

A memorial service will be held next month on the lot where Vicari's home once stood.

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Trees brought down by Hurricane Michael's ferocious winds took a heavy toll on life, property and the timber industry in the heavily forested Florida Panhandle, where $1.3 billion in timber was lost, authorities said Friday.

A firefighter became the latest death attributed to the storm when he was killed by a falling tree while helping clear debris with family members more than a week after Michael blew ashore with 255 mph (410 kph) winds.

Fire coordinator Brad Price, 49, of Wewahitchka was on his tractor when he was killed Thursday, the Gulf County Sheriff's Office said on its official Facebook page.

"We love you, grieve with you, and are praying for all of you," Gulf County firefighters said on their Facebook page.

That brought the storm's death toll in Florida to 25, and 35 overall across the South — where, in addition to tree falls, deaths came when the storm decimated homes with winds and storm surge, cut power to those reliant on electricity for medical conditions and swept away cars in flash floods.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said that along with the $1.3 billion in timber losses, pulp mills, sawmills and other production facilities were damaged in 11 of the top timber-producing counties in state.

"This is a catastrophic loss to the forest industry in the Florida Panhandle," Putnam said in a news release.

Officials also were concerned that downed trees could pose a fire hazard.

Forest Service Director Jim Karels said the danger grows as the debris dries. The agency is working to clear the debris and establish fire lines that could help contain forest fire, he said.

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Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, and Freida Frisaro in Miami contributed to this report.

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