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Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- To hear Alex Halderman tell it, hacking the vote is easy.

The University of Michigan professor is on a crusade to demonstrate how vulnerable American voting machines are, and some of his arguments are quite compelling. He has rigged mock elections. He has testified to the machines’ vulnerabilities in Congress and in court. He has even managed to turn a commonly used voting machine into an iteration of the classic arcade game Pac-Man.

“They’re just computers at the end of the day,” said Halderman, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee last year that states should move back to paper ballots. “Often with voting machines, when you open it up, it’s not that different from a desktop PC or mobile device. The only difference is that it’s going to be 10 years out of date, or sometimes 20 years.”

Election officials, on the other hand, say those concerns are overblown. Hacking the vote, according to them, would be all but impossible, because it would be too difficult for hackers to gain physical access to the machines on Election Day without drawing notice.

“In the real world of elections, it’s ludicrous,” said Clifford Rodgers, administrator of elections in Knox County, Tenn. “We’ve got people watching people come in to vote.They’re not coming in with screwdrivers to open it up. They’re not coming in with computers.”

With the midterms fast approaching amid the ongoing fallout from Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, concerns about vote hacking have never been higher. But while academics, cybersecurity professionals, and hackers say American votes can be hacked, election officials insist they can’t. Understanding the dispute is key to understanding how secure – or not -- American elections are.

In a January 2018 report, the Congressional Task Force on Election Security warned that “many jurisdictions are using voting machines that are highly vulnerable to an outside attack.” Cybersecurity professionals concur. Voting machines are “not designed to face any sort of hostile environment,” said Ryan Kalember, a vice president at cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, which says they work to combat phishing attacks against election officials.

And organizers of the annual DEF CON hacking conference wrote of this year’s effort to probe three different types of voting machine models that “the number and severity of vulnerabilities discovered on voting equipment still used throughout the United States today was staggering.”

Most states still use either paper ballots or machines that record votes both individually on a cash-register-style roll of paper and store them electronically, but thirty percent of U.S. voters choose their candidates on electronic voting machines that involve no individualized paper record, according to Verified Voting, a group that advocates for paper ballots. Five states — Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and South Carolina — use paperless electronic voting machines statewide, and another ten used them in some counties in 2016, according to the independent, bipartisan Election Assistance Commission.

Those paperless machines have drawn the most concern, as election-security experts worry that a hack won’t be detectable without a paper trail. And while there is little doubt that many machines are technically hackable, there is widespread debate over whether it is practically possible.

One major point of contention is physical security.

For example, with regard to the AVC Edge – a voting machine used in 956 counties in 10 states – DEF CON’s report notes that hacking the vote would involve opening the machine casing with a screwdriver, swapping a removable memory device with a hacked one, and closing the machine back up.

But the DEF CON report has drawn both praise and pushback. The National Association of Secretaries of State pointed out that the “unlimited physical access” to machines at the hacking convention “does not replicate accurate physical and cyber protections” when votes are actually cast.

Questions have also been raised about how securely the machines are stored prior to Election Day. Verified Voting President Marian Schneider suggested unattended machines could be tampered with by bad actors.

“They’re not secured all the time. Nobody enforces it,” Schneider said. “They’re delivered to where they’re going to be voted on, and they sit there for a week.”

Vulnerability via Internet is another matter of debate.

Election officials make a consistent point: Their machines are not connected to the Internet, meaning hackers can’t reach them from afar. Nor are they (usually) connected to each other, meaning a hacker would have to attack many machines to change votes on a broad scale.

“I don’t think anybody can get into our machines, so security wise, I am not concerned about them,” Delaware Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove told ABC News in August.

Cybersecurity experts, however, aren’t so sure. Sophisticated hackers can breach even those “air-gapped” networks, they say, and voting machines might come into contact with the Internet in other ways. Experts point to potential vulnerabilities along the supply chain of a vote, perhaps in the computers used to program the voting machines or those used to tally the votes.

“The argument that you have to hack them one by one is a misconception, in my opinion,” DEF CON organizer Harri Hursti told ABC News, because “the programming of the voting machines is always coming from a central location” that could be hacked.

Practices vary widely county by county , and some states have been more active than others in addressing threats, which can make the overall landscape of vulnerabilities difficult to assess.

“It’s absolutely a patchwork of strengths and weaknesses,” Halderman said.

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PA State Police/Facebook(HARRISBURG, Pa.) -- A missing Pennsylvania teenager may have left to hike the Appalachian Trail, authorities said.

Corey Lee Bliesath, 15, was last seen at his home in Swatara Township near Harrisburg around 9 p.m. Saturday, Pennsylvania State Police said Monday.

Bliesath had been talking about going to Florida by way of the Appalachian Trail, his family told police.

The Appalachian Trail runs north to south, from Maine down to Georgia. It passes right by Harrisburg.

Hiking and camping are the boy's hobbies, and he has basic survival skills, his family said, according to Pennsylvania State Police Trooper David Beohm.

Bliesath's interest in hiking the Appalachian Trail has grown in recent weeks, his family told police, though it's unclear why, Beohm told ABC News.

"I don't think he's in any danger other than he's 15 and he may be walking on the Appalachian Trail by himself," Beohm said.

Police said that by showing the teen's photo to the public, he may be safely located more quickly, Beohm said.

Bliesath is described as 5-foot-4 and about 105 pounds.

Anyone with information is urged to call 717-865-2194.

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images(MEXICO BEACH, Fla.) -- President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrived in Florida Monday afternoon, where they are expected to highlight ongoing recovery efforts following Hurricane Michael as dozens still remain missing in the wake of the deadly storm.

Speaking to reporters on the tarmac at Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa County, the president repeatedly touted the coordination with Florida Gov. Rick Scott through last week and said the priority is ensuring displaced residents are safe and have access to food and water.

“The job they've done in Florida has been incredible, and likewise I'm hearing in Georgia pretty good things,” Trump said. “Just making sure everyone's safe, that they're fed, you know many of these people, they have no – they have no home. Some of them have no trace of a home, you wouldn't even know it just got blown right off the footing. So our big thing is feeding and water and safety.”

While the White House has not provided a detailed itinerary for the trip, the president tweeted prior to his departure saying he would be sitting "with FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement." The official White House schedule has the president and first lady returning at the White House in the evening.

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NYPD(NEW YORK) -- Police released photos of three men allegedly involved in a violent clash between right- and left-wing protesters in New York City last week.

Investigators with the New York Police Department say the three took part in a brutal brawl Friday night between protesters and members of the right-wing Proud Boys organization, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Police said two of the people wanted for questioning were seen kicking a victim lying on the sidewalk and the other was observed punching a victim who was trying to run away.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio urged witnesses to speak up if they had any information about the fight.

“The NYPD is fully investigating last night’s attack involving the Proud Boys. If you know anything, the NYPD wants your help,” De Blasio said in a statement. “Hate is never welcome in NYC and we will punish those responsible — whether they threw punches or incited violence — to the fullest extent of the law.”

Cuomo struck a more pointed tone in his statement and called out the Proud Boys by name.

“Hate cannot and will not be tolerated in New York. Here's a message from a Queens boy to the so-called 'proud boys' – NY has zero tolerance for your bs,” the governor wrote in a tweet.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that monitors extremist activity, classifies the Proud Boys as a hate group due to its alleged use of anti-Muslim and white nationalist rhetoric. The Proud Boys group describes itself as “western chauvinists,” but it denies ties to the racist “alt-right” movement.

Chaos erupted near the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City at around 8:30 p.m. Friday as demonstrators gathered to protest a speech there by Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes.

The club said some protesters threw glass bottles at attendees as they exited the venue.

“Gavin’s talk on Friday night, while at times was politically incorrect and a bit edgy, was certainly not inciting violence,” the Metropolitan Republican Club wrote in a statement, noting that its building had been vandalized ahead of the event.

Three others were already arrested in connection to the incident.

Finbarr Slonim, 20, of Manhattan, and Kai Russo, 20, of Brooklyn, were arrested in the wake of the event on robbery and assault charges, according to police. A third man, 35-year-old Caleb Perkins, of Manhattan, was arrested and charged with robbery, assault and resisting arrest, police said.

Investigators released video from the scene on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, showing the wanted men throwing punches as others cheered “USA” in the background. Officials said they could not confirm whether those arrested were associated with a particular group.

Police said they were wanted for questioning and no charges have been filed.

“We continue to investigate the violent incident on the UES on Friday night, and need information regarding these persons-of-interest,” the NYPD wrote in a tweet Saturday. “No complaints have been filed. If you were the victim of a crime, or have information about the incident, please call 1-800-577-TIPS. @NYPDTips.”

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Subscribe To This Feed COUNTY, Ky.) -- Kentucky mom is expressing outrage after viewing surveillance video of a teacher dragging her son through the hallway at school, an incident she says left him bruised and traumatized.

Jo Grayson found it hard to contain her anger in an interview on Sunday after the Fayette County Public Schools released footage showing a teacher and a nurse dragging her 11-year-old son, Thatcher, through the hallways of one of its schools.

At one point during the video, Thatcher, who has autism and is nonverbal, appeared to scream as the employees dragged him up a flight of stairs, while his service dog stood helplessly nearby.

“It was terrible because it’s my child,” Grayson told ABC News. “I mean, I don’t understand how anybody could do that to any child, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.

“I was initially told that he was having a meltdown, but the truth is, he wasn’t having a meltdown,” she added.

Grayson said the school notified her via text message when the incident occurred last month, but it never mentioned that her son had been dragged.

“I got a text from the teacher that said that she and the nurse had to pick up my son,” Grayson said. “I was helping him dress because he needs a lot of help and I took off his shirt and I noticed all these marks on him.

“I got a call from somebody from Child Protective Services ... and she’s the one who told me what had actually occurred in the video -- that he’d been dragged down the hallway and some of the specifics about what were in the video,” she added.

School district officials said the incident took place at the Tates Creek Middle School in Lexington, Kentucky, on Sept. 14, and escalated when Thatcher refused to stand up in class.

School employees are trained to transport and/or restrain a student if they’re believed to be a danger to themselves or others, but the teachers didn’t follow the correct procedures in this situation, the school district said.

"Incidents of this nature –- in which an employee is acting outside of the district’s expectations and out of line with the training provided –- are isolated,” the Fayette County Public Schools said in a statement. “Our training is very explicit that physical restraint is a last resort only to be used when a student is a danger to themselves or others.

“The training also shows employees the proper ways to hold or transport students. In this case, neither of those standards were met,” it added.

School officials refused to disclose “details of individual personnel matters,” but said the teacher is no longer an employee. It did not say if the nurse, who is employed by the health department, had been penalized.

Grayson, on the other hand, has contacted a lawyer and is planning to purse legal measures. She said she agrees with the district's decision to dismiss the teacher, but she ultimately blamed the incident on poor training.

“I feel that had she had better training and know what to do in such a situation as that then the situation might not have happened at all,” Grayson told ABC News. “I feel like this was something that neither the school nurse or teacher were prepared for.”

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ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- More than two dozen people were injured on Sunday after a bus crossed a freeway divider and plowed into a passenger car on the 405 in Los Angeles.

The accident happened at about 1 p.m. local time and sent 25 people to the hospital, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Authorities said five adults, aged 30 to 88 years old, were in serious condition.

The other 20 people suffered only minor injuries.

It was not clear whether the injured people were all on the bus or in the car.

The bus was carrying 37 passengers back from a church event at the Forum in Inglewood, according to Los Angeles ABC station KABC.

Debris was strewn all over the 405 Freeway from the accident.

"Incidents on a freeway are extremely dangerous to not only those involved but to first responders and bystanders," the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement. "Upon arrival, firefighters found debris strewn across both sides of the freeway, causing an immediate full closure."

Forty patients in total were evaluated at the scene, but only 25 were sent to the hospital.

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NOAA(CALLAWAY, Fla.) -- As hundreds of rescuers combed the Florida Panhandle for missing people in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, Amber Gee found her uncle and aunt when she used a government interactive satellite map and spotted their H-E-L-P message on the family's front lawn.

Gee, a mother of a 2-year-old girl and 3-month-old boy, evacuated her home in Callaway, Florida, just south of hard-hit Panama City on Thursday, a day after the category 4 storm made landfall. She assumed her relatives followed suit.

But on Saturday, she was searching the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration interactive satellite map and to her astonishment saw the word H-E-L-P spelled out in logs on her grandmother's lawn in Youngstown, northeast of Panama City.

Her uncle, Ernest Gee, had used trees knocked down by the hurricane to cobble together the S.O.S., she told ABC News on Sunday.

"I was checking on damages in the area on houses that belong to my family and I came across my grandma's house," said Gee, 24. "And they had the word H-E-L-P written out in the yard."

While her grandmother, Emily Bently, who is in her 80s, had already evacuated, her uncle, Ernest, his wife and a friend of theirs stayed behind and ended up trapped, she said.

"I had been seeing this link to images all over Facebook and I decided to check it out," Gee said. "We lucked out and I was able to get some of my family some help and get them out of the property.

"I didn't think it was really going to work. ... But luckily enough, my uncle who was staying there and was thinking outside of the box, wrote the word H-E-L-P out."

After seeing the distress signal, Gee posted the image of the H-E-L-P message on the Bay County site and called her local emergency services officials and asked for a welfare check.

(MORE: Hurricane Michael updates: Death toll rises to 17 as 'tremendous number' unaccounted for in hard-hit Florida)

A team from the Dade County Sheriff's Department made it to the house about 2 a.m. on Sunday and rescued her family members and their friend.

"Apparently, they had to cut through a lot of downed trees to get there," Gee said.

Gee said she was relieved to hear her relatives were safe.

"The hurricane has turned everything upside down everywhere," she said. "Some were more fortunate than others. I'm just happy that everybody is safe and sound and, hopefully, soon we will all get through this together and recover from this storm."

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WABI(BANGOR, Maine) -- A 7-year-old boy who was not supposed to live past April was surprised with a police escort to his final cancer treatment.

Liam Silveira from Bangor, Maine, has been fighting high grade glioma for over a year. Doctors told his mother, Devin Silveira, that Liam’s cancer was aggressive and to prepare for the worst.

“Liam outliving the prognosis is a miracle,” Silveira told ABC News.

Liam has always dreamed of becoming a police officer when he grows up, so earlier this month, he was ecstatic to find a living room full of cops from the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department on his last day of chemotherapy.

"When we came downstairs in the morning, there were five police cruisers in the driveway,” Silveira said.

The officers let Liam ride in the police cruiser, use the radio, and even gave him an honorary sheriff’s badge.

“He inspired us,” Sheriff Troy Martin said. “We thought we were here for him, and I think he’s done so much for our community and all of us.”

Liam’s mom was brought to tears watching the officers make her son’s day unforgettable.

“I cried just to see how many people came out to support him and show their love for him,” Silveira said. “It was really touching."

WABIAlthough Liam is not completely cured, his family is grateful he will not have to go through any more chemotherapy.

“I’m doing awesome!” Liam said.

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Spread The Vote(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Javier Munoz is on a mission.

The former star of hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” is trying to get people the identification cards they need to vote this November.

As the U.S. fast approaches the November midterm elections, Munoz is now the face of a 60-second video in English and Spanish created by an organization called Spread the Vote, which helps people get the photo ID required to vote in certain states.

“It is a huge opportunity for the Latinx community, to have their voices heard, especially in response to hurricane Maria and how that affected each and every life on that island,” Munoz told ABC News.

Nearly 200,000 Puerto Ricans left after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in Sept. 2017, the majority of them moving to Florida.

Florida is one of seven states that requires all voters showing up to the polls to have a photo ID card to vote.

“The IDs we are getting for people go way past the ballot,” Spread the Vote’s Florida State Director Gina Miles told ABC News. “They need IDs to survive. They need an ID to apply for a job, to apply for housing, for medical care, to enter food banks.”

Munoz still has family in Ponce and Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and some of his family members were among the hundreds of thousands that relocated to Florida. He vividly remembers Hurricane Maria and its aftermath.

“It was so terrifying to go so long without hearing from them that still in just saying the names of where they live on the island of Puerto Rico, evokes an emotional response in me,” Munoz said.

Damaris Torres is one person who will be receiving a Florida driver’s license soon, thanks to help from Spread the Vote.

Torres, originally from Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, left the island on Nov. 15 with her two daughters, one of whom was pregnant, as well as her 3-year-old granddaughter. They lived in a hotel in Orlando before the family was able to transfer their Section 8 housing status from the island to the mainland.

“We decided to come because I am diabetic and it was becoming very difficult with the insulin and all the medicine,” Torres said in Spanish.

Torres said that voting in November’s election is important because it ensures the well-being of her daughters and grandchildren.

“To get off the plane and to see how the island is doing was very depressing” Torres said about visiting the island after the hurricane, adding that thinking of her son who still lives in their old home on the south part of the island with limited power is what causes her the most pain.

Spread The Vote pays for and assists people who need to get updated birth certificates, notarized letters and other documents to and from Puerto Rico to ultimately get a driver’s license. The average cost to get a Florida driver’s license for someone from Puerto Rico is $34.

“You have all these people that were forced out of their homes because of a storm,” said Kat Calvin, a lawyer turned political organizer who founded Spread the Vote. “[T]hey now have the opportunity to elect someone who will actually do something and will actually care.”

The organization also helps people who are not from Puerto Rico but need voter identification cards.

“Ninety percent of the people that we help, the very first thing they say is ‘I can get a job now,’” said Calvin, adding that 77 percent of the people who get an identification card through the organization are first-time voters.

For his part, Munoz looks to the November election as a moment of reckoning for people displaced by Maria.

“While a person is rebuilding their life post-Hurricane Maria, and having to relocate, who gets elected will directly affect what they have as a resource going forward as they rebuild their lives.”

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Scott Olson/Getty Images(MEXICO BEACH, Fla.) -- At least 46 people remained unaccounted for on Sunday in Mexico Beach, Florida, an area pulverized by Hurricane Michael, the city's mayor told ABC News.

Mayor Al Cathey said that 289 people, including 10 children, decided to stay put, despite evacuation orders, and ride out the category 4 storm which made landfall on Wednesday and destroyed numerous homes and businesses in Mexico Beach, which boasts a population of nearly 1,200.

Cathy and Mexico Beach City Clerk Adrian Welle told ABC News that 46 of those who stayed behind were missing Sunday.

Of the 18 people killed as the hurricane swept through the Florida Panhandle, Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina, only one confirmed death has been reported in Mexico Beach.

Hurricane Michael made landfall at Mexico Beach with 155 mph winds.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, toured the hard-hit areas of Mexico Beach, Panama City, Blountstown and Bristol on Sunday.

Police made two sweeps of Mexico Beach on Wednesday morning and recorded names of everyone who planned to stay, though officials said it is impossible to know who might have left during or immediately after the storm.

The storm not only destroyed homes and business in the city, it destroyed the Mexico Beach Police Department.

"We don't have a building -- from my understanding, the water surge moved it off its foundation," Mexico Beach Police Chief Anthony Kelly told ABC News on Friday. "The officers, I finally made accountability of them all today, two days after the fact. ... They're not just my officers, the people that I work with, they're my family."

Emily Mitchell returned on Saturday afternoon to what was left of the house her family owned in Mexico Beach. The roof was ripped off, walls were blown in and she called it a "total loss." They expect to just bulldoze the lot. They are unsure what their next step will be because her parents had decided they couldn't afford to pay for hurricane insurance.

"We didn't want to tell anybody about Mexico Beach because it was such a sweet town, we were scared that people would know about it and keep coming," she said.

Hurricane Michael's death toll climbed to 17 on Saturday. Officials expected the number of people killed by the storm to go higher as crews sifted through the wreckage of once-bustling oceanside cities, like Mexico Beach and Panama City Beach.

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Clayton County Police Department(ATLANTA) -- What police initially thought was a serious car crash turned into a murder mystery in Georgia after doctors found a bullet lodged in the neck of an aspiring fashion model involved in a head-on traffic collision, officials said.

Kelsey Quayle, 28, died on Wednesday when her family decided to have her removed from life support machines three days after her white Mazda 626 veered into oncoming traffic and slammed into two cars as she drove to work in the Atlanta suburb of Riverdale.

"I just want to know who did this. It's ridiculous. She didn't deserve this," Quayle's sister, Kayleigh Martin, told ABC affiliate station WSB-TV in Atlanta

Quayle was unconscious when paramedics pulled her from her car after she crashed around 7 a.m. Monday. Police said she was driving to a dentist's office where she worked as an assistant while pursuing her dream of being a fashion model.

"Upon her being transported to a local hospital with serious injuries, it was found she had suffered a gunshot wound," said Capt. Scott Stubbs of the Clayton County Police Department told WSB-TV.

Police released surveillance video from a nearby gas station that shows Quayle's car headed west on Upper Riverdale Road before it suddenly drifted into oncoming traffic and hit two cars head-on.

Quayle was initially taken to Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale before being transferred to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where doctors discovered she had been shot in the neck, police said.

Police are asking for the public's help in trying to identify Quayle's killer. Stubbs conceded that it has been a baffling investigation, and that authorities have found no evidence that Quayle was intentionally targeted.

"It seems to be random at this time," Stubbs told WSB-TV. "We have no reports of anyone reporting any gunfire, no reports of anybody driving erratically."

Quayle moved to the Atlanta area from California with her boyfriend two months ago, Martin told WSB-TV.

"We just have so many unanswered questions," Martin said.

She said her sister moved to Atlanta to pursue modeling opportunities.

"She was the sweetest person. It just doesn't make sense," Martin told WSB-TV.

She pleaded with anyone who might have information on the killing to contact the police immediately.

"Please, please come forward," Martin said. "Please let us know if anybody saw anything."

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ABC News(PANAMA CITY, Fla.) -- Hurricane Michael's death toll has climbed to 17 as search-and-rescue crews continue to sift through the wreckage of once-bustling oceanside cities, like Mexico Beach and Panama City Beach, four days after the storm came ashore.

Mexico Beach was largely decimated when Michael made landfall there Wednesday as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.

"There are individuals who are deceased. We do not have a count, but we are working to identify them," Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban, leader of a search-and-rescue team in Mexico Beach, told The Associated Press.

One body was found in the wreckage of a home in the town on Friday, but teams planned to be back out to comb through the debris on Saturday.

Of the 17 killed in the storm, eight were located in Florida. Four people died in Gadsden County and three died in Jackson County, in addition to one recovered so far in Mexico Beach, located in Bay County. Jackson County Emergency Management Agency Director Rodney Andreasen said one of the fatalities in Jackson County occurred when a man was struck by a tree in Alford.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long warned on Friday that the death toll will likely climb.

"I hope we don’t see that climb dramatically, but ... we still haven’t gotten into some of the hardest-hit areas," he said.

Ray Jadallah, from the Miami-Dade County Florida Task Force 1, has spent the last two days -- 20 hours a day -- digging through debris in Mexico Beach. He said they are ignoring intact structures and painstakingly going door to door at collapsed buildings, first making noise to alert anyone who could be inside that they are not looters, and then sending in a cadaver dog to search for any bodies.

So far, they have located just one dead body, a relative relief for Jadallah, who did the same work following Hurricane Katrina when they found "numerous victims." The destruction in Bay County has largely been from wind damage, as opposed to the flooding during Katrina.

"We were just surprised by the sheer damage," Jadallah said of arriving in Mexico Beach after Hurricane Michael. "Literally overnight it went from a Category 1 or 2 to a Category 4, almost borderline 5. This type of destruction we haven't seen since I was a kid and that was Hurricane Andrew. This is pretty extensive, the damage. It's going to take some time for them to get back on their feet."

About 285 people defied mandatory evacuation orders in Mexico Beach. Police made two sweeps of the town Wednesday morning and recorded names of everyone who planned to stay, though officials said it is impossible to know who might have left during or immediately after the storm.

"We don't have a building -- from my understanding the water surge moved it off its foundation," Mexico Beach Police Chief Anthony Kelly told ABC News Friday. "The officers, I finally made accountability of them all today, two days after the fact. ... They're not just my officers, the people that I work with, they're my family."

Emily Mitchell returned on Saturday afternoon to what was left of the house her family owned in the city. The roof was ripped off, walls were blown in and she called it a "total loss." They expect to just bulldoze the lot. They are unsure what their next step will be because her parents had decided they couldn't afford to pay for hurricane insurance.

"We didn't want to tell anybody about Mexico Beach because it was such a sweet town, we were scared that people would know about it and keep coming," she said.

"It's just totally wiped out."

Neighboring Panama City was hit just as hard as Mexico Beach. Many survivors told of hunkering down in their homes as they were torn apart by the 150 mph winds.

"I decided to stay because my family decided to evacuate, but the pets had to stay here," Panama City resident John Pandullo said. "They didn’t have a place to go. So I wanted to protect them or be there for them in case something like this happened -- and it did."

Pandullo rode out the storm in a closet with his dog, Rosie, as the house literally collapsed around him. The roof caved in and the living room and garage of his parents' home no longer exist.

"It was just so crazy and it’s just so bad," he said. "The dog was right here and she would not leave my side and she would not move. She was shaking extremely bad. And the winds were coming in and the rain was all pouring down on us and basically I waited for over an hour.

"I managed to make a phone call actually at the peak of the storm, and I was actually able to talk with my parents at the time," Pandullo continued. "And my mom was praying with Jesus on the phone about it the whole time you know -- 'Please let him be alive.'"

Kenny Day has lived in Panama City for two decades and said riding out Michael was "the most scared I've ever been in my life."

"The whole house shook; it felt like the whole house was going to come apart at some point," Day said. "Luckily it didn't. I'm amazed it didn't."

Day's home suffered minor damage, and he's been staying at a motel in Pensacola, but he immediately headed out to buy supplies and has traveled back and forth to Panama City to help others whose homes were damaged worse than his.

"How does it feel to have that help? We need it. We're gonna need it bad," he said. "Man, it's gonna be rough for a while in Panama City."

Five people, including a firefighter, died in Virginia as flooding caused massive damage in an area already hard hit by Hurricane Florence last month. Three people died in North Carolina, all due to falling trees, and a young girl was killed in Georgia when debris was blown through the roof of her grandparents' home.

There were still 1.3 million customers without power across Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and Virginia as of 5 a.m. Saturday.

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Stephanie Keith/Getty Images(AMSTERDAM, N.Y.) -- Four sisters and their four family members who were among 20 people killed in a limousine crash in upstate New York last week will all be laid to rest Saturday.

The group was on their way to a birthday party with several other friends on Oct. 6 when their stretch limousine blew through a stop sign and slammed into an unoccupied, parked SUV in Schoharie, New York, about 43 miles west of Albany. All of the limo's 18 occupants, including the driver, were killed as well as two pedestrians who were standing nearby, authorities said.

Both state and federal authorities are investigating the crash, which is the deadliest transportation accident in the United States since August 2009, according to Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

A combined funeral service will be held Saturday afternoon at St. Stanislaus Church in Amsterdam for eight of the victims inside the limo: Allison King, 31, of Ballston Spa, New York; sister Abigail Jackson, 34, and her husband Adam Jackson, 34, of Amsterdam, New York; sister Mary Dyson, 33, and her husband Robert Dyson, 34, of Watertown, New York; sister Amy Steenburg, 29, and her husband Axel Steenburg, 29, of Amsterdam, New York, as well as his brother, Richard Steenburg, 34, of Johnstown, New York.

"They were special girls," Valerie Abeling, aunt of the four sisters, told ABC's Albany affiliate WTEN-TV. "I loved them dearly. My brother said he lost most of his family."

The group was celebrating Amy Steenburg's 30th birthday, family members told ABC News. She had just married her husband in June.

The limo involved in the crash failed a Sept. 4 safety inspection in part due to an Anti-lock breaking system (ABS) malfunction indicators for the hydraulic brake system, according to records reviewed by ABC News.

A lawyer for the limo company, Prestige Limousine, told ABC News earlier this week that the vehicle had failed the safety inspection over minor problems.

However, the New York State Department of Transportation disputed that claim.

"The assertion that the limousine was cleared to be on the road following the September inspection is categorically false," Joseph Morrissey, spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation, said in a statement. "The vehicle was subject to inspections and the owner was warned not to operate the vehicle; the vehicle was placed out of service."

The driver, 53-year-old Scott Lisincchia of Lake George, New York, did not have the appropriate driver's license required to drive a vehicle that can hold more than 15 people, a law enforcement official told ABC News.

Lisincchia had previously told his wife about issues with the vehicle, according to Richard Burke, the family's spokesman. Burke said Lisincchia's wife "told me that he had complained to her regarding the condition of some of the vehicles."

The operator of the limo company, Nauman Hussain, was arrested Wednesday and charged with criminally negligent homicide, police said. He was being charged because he put a defective vehicle back on the road and hired a driver whom he knew was not properly licensed to drive the vehicle, a source familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Hussain pleaded not guilty and was released on bail Wednesday night.

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KABC(NEW YORK) -- Fall is in the air in the Rockies and the Midwest and Northeast this weekend as both brace for some cool temperatures, and even some snow out west.

Cold temperatures ushered in by a low will allow for the development of snow along the Rocky Mountains on Saturday. The National Weather Service has issued winter weather advisories and winter storm watches from Montana to New Mexico in advance of the frontal system.

Travel will be treacherous in these areas Saturday afternoon and evening.

In addition to the snowy weather, record-low temperatures for this time of year could be broken.

Accumulations are possible from Montana through New Mexico, with the highest amounts occurring in Colorado. Lower elevations can expect 2 to 4 inches, while higher altitudes may see over 6 inches of snow.

The Rockies aren’t the only area to see a decrease in temperatures. The Northeast is experiencing its first real taste of autumn this weekend, after a cold front passed through Thursday night heralding cool and dry air.

The chilly temperatures will stick around this weekend with highs ranging from the high 40s in Pittsburgh on Saturday to 60 degrees in Boston on Sunday.

Sergio's remnants bring rain

The remnants of Sergio, which was once a Category 3 hurricane, will impact the Southern Plains this weekend. The system is moving into Texas from the southwest Saturday morning, and is beginning to draw in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

Heavy rains and strong thunderstorms are ongoing threats with this storm system.

Radar images show that the remnants of Sergio are already impacting western Texas and eastern New Mexico on Saturday morning. Throughout the day, rounds of rain and thunderstorms will move from southwest to northeast through New Mexico and Texas. The inflow of moisture from the Gulf will help to sustain the storms and intensify the threat of flash flooding in the impacted areas. The National Weather Service has issued flash flood watches from New Mexico to Arkansas.

Storms will drop 1 to 3 inches of rain over the course of just a few hours in Texas Saturday afternoon. Upwards of 6 inches of rain is expected in some spots once the remnants of Sergio have moved through.

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Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(MEXICO BEACH, Fla.) -- Hurricane Michael, a ferocious and historic storm, has killed at least 17 people, left a "tremendous number" of others unaccounted for and left a trail of destruction across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Michael is the fourth most powerful storm on record to hit the U.S., and the worst since Hurricane Camille in 1969.

It is also the first Category 4 hurricane to ever make landfall on the Florida Panhandle, and "the worst storm" that area has ever seen, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.

The hurricane blasted into the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon, demolishing homes and submerging entire neighborhoods.

ABC News Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee said the ruins in Mexico Beach, Florida, were "eerily reminiscent to the scene I saw in Gulfport [Mississippi] in 2005," after Hurricane Katrina.

Before Michael hit, law enforcement made a list of everyone in the small Mexico Beach community who stayed behind.

In Mexico Beach "a tremendous number of people" are "unaccounted for," Mark Bowen, chief of emergency services in Bay County, which encompasses Mexico Beach, told "Good Morning America" Friday.

Rescuers' top priority Friday is a "meticulous" search process, Bowen said, "everything from looking for bodies to looking for injured persons."

"Fire stations were destroyed, police stations were destroyed," Bowen said. "Public safety agencies are only taking highest priority calls right now ... heart attacks, you know, major trauma. ... An enormous amount of 911 calls are going unresponded to because we’ve got this priority to search and rescue. So it’s a terrible thing."

The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued more than 60 people an assisted nearly 300 by Friday evening, it said in a press release.

After Florida, Michael roared through Georgia, sending a tornado through the tiny town of Roberta, near Macon.

Roberta residents Wayne and Sharon Granade told ABC News they ran inside, slammed the door, got under a couch and held each other.

"It comes through like the worst sound you've ever heard in your life," Wayne Granade said. "It started throwing stuff everywhere."

"You hear the train noise and it sounds like bombs exploding," Sharon Granade said. "I was crying ... It was really scary ... you can hear the trees breaking."

"Worst situation you can be in," Wayne Granade added. "Everybody thinks it ain't gonna happen to you. But it happened to us."

Michael then barreled into the Carolinas, dumping over 9 inches of rain in North Carolina where residents are still reeling from historic flooding left by Hurricane Florence last month.

The Carolinas were followed by Virginia, where the weakened storm still wreaked havoc, flooding roads, downing power lines and killing at least five.

Lives lost

At least 17 people lost their lives in the massive storm.

Four people died in Gadsden County, Florida, said a sheriff's office spokesperson.

In Georgia, an 11-year-old girl, Sarah Radney, was killed when part of a metal carport crashed into her family's trailer in Lake Seminole and struck her in the head, local officials said. Her official cause of death was due to massive blunt force trauma, Seminole County Coroner Chad Smith told ABC News.

Michael is the first major hurricane to blow into Georgia since 1898.

There were five deaths in Virginia, four of which were from drowning, state officials said.

The fifth death in the state was Lt. Brad Clark, a Hanover County firefighter, who was killed while helping at the scene of a car crash Thursday, according to Hanover Fire-EMS and Virginia State Police.

In North Carolina, a 38-year-old man was killed when a tree fell onto his car as he was driving, Iredell County officials said.

Two others also died in North Carolina, according to The Associated Press.

The AP also reported a body was found in Mexico Beach Friday evening, specifically in that town. The Jackson County, Florida, sheriff's office also reported three dead in the county, but did not specify any causes of death.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long on Friday warned that the death toll will likely climb.

"I hope we don’t see that climb dramatically, but ... we still haven’t gotten into some of the hardest-hit areas," he said.

Devastation in Florida

The Florida Panhandle is the wide strip in the northwest corner of the state bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the south and Alabama and Georgia to the north. Its largest city is Pensacola, with a population approaching half a million.

Popular with tourists for its beaches, the area also has many year-round residents.

Michael left the coastal community of Mexico Beach destroyed, with the storm surge ripping multiple houses from their foundations, sending them bobbing along the main road that runs through the town.

Zee said she saw an "entire home, a well-built home, rolling down the street."

"It makes you shake," Zee added.

With cell service knocked out, many people are isolated. There are now empty spots where dozens of homes are no longer standing.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted he was hearing "stunning" reports of damage, including that "Mexico Beach is gone" and the "damage in Panama City is catastrophic."

He described Mexico Beach as an "old old Florida town" that "feels like a trip back in time," and Panama City as "a vibrant seaside city" popular for families and students to vacation.

"It will take a long time to recover from this. We will do everything we can to make sure the federal government does it’s part," the senator tweeted. "But I will confess that my biggest fear that this part of Florida, with its unique & genuine characteristics, will never be the same."

Thousands fled the Florida coastline before Michael hit. But by Wednesday morning, it was too late to evacuate. Those who remained were urged to shelter in place.

"It sounded like a freight train coming from every direction," Krista Miller, who stayed behind in her 111-year-old home in Apalachicola Bay, told "Good Morning America."

Colleen Swab, her mother and her young daughter took shelter in a closet in Panama City Beach, Florida.

"We were terrified but there was nowhere for us to go. We couldn't get on the roads. It was too late," Swab said. "I thought the roof was going to come off. I don't suggest trying to ride out a storm."

Tyndall Air Force Base, located 12 miles east of Panama City, suffered "severe damage to the base infrastructure," the Air Force said.

No personnel assigned to stay there during the storm were injured, the Air Force added.

As cleanup and rescue efforts were underway Thursday, Gov. Scott urged residents to stay off the roads.

"The worst thing you can do now is act foolishly" by putting yourself in danger or keeping law enforcement from saving lives, he said at a news conference.

Residents in the dark

Michael has left more than 1.3 million households and businesses without power across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

More than 33,000 workers have been mobilized to help restore power, officials said.

The government is urging anyone in a disaster zone to check on their neighbors.

“Right now, what we need is neighbor helping neighbor,” Long, the FEMA Administrator, said in a statement. “We deploy resources and responders, but we know often times it is neighbors who are the first people to help those in need.”

President Donald Trump has approved major disaster declarations in Florida and Georgia.

Residents can register for federal assistance at

Michael "grew into a monster," Trump said Wednesday from the Oval Office.

Despite the storm, Trump went to his Wednesday night rally in Erie, Pennsylvania.

"We have thousands of people lined up. ... It would have been very unfair," Trump told reporters when asked about whether he was thinking of canceling it.

He later spoke about the hurricane during the rally.

"Our thoughts and prayers on behalf of the nation to everyone out there in the path of Hurricane Michael," Trump told supporters Wednesday night.

Trump said he will visit Florida and Georgia next week.

"We are working very hard on every area and every state that was hit - we are with you!" he tweeted Friday.

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