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PANAMA CITY (CBSMiami) – The two men competing for a U.S. Senate seat in the midterm election have taken a break from campaigning to focus on recovery in the Panhandle.

Friday morning Governor Rick Scott boarded a helicopter for an aerial survey of Hurricane Michael damage in Gulf County and Jackson County. He then hit the ground and toured damage in Mexico Beach and Marianna.

Scott also stopped in Panama City where hospitals were being evacuated due to damage.

“We’ve been sending down ambulances and helping the get evacuated,” he said.

He also went to Jinks Middle School which had the walls of its gym ripped off in the storm. Just last year, Jinks Middle was used to house Puerto Ricans seeking shelter from Hurricane Maria.

“Thinks about it, just four days ago kids were playing basketball here,” he said.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson also toured the damage in Panama City and Mexico Beach Friday morning. He said he’s been in contact with Washington for how to best help the people who are showing up at hospitals seeking care.

“There was just ultimate pandemonium as people were showing up at the hospital. And they can’t accommodate everybody. And then now, trying to evacuate. So I just talked to the number two at HHS (Health and Human Services) in Washington, the deputy secretary. He says he has a team of 200 people that are some place as far away as Jacksonville and Mobile, but they have an emergency team that is at these two hospitals trying to treat the people as they are evacuating. Because the hospitals aren’t going to be able to stay open for any appreciable time,” he said.

Nelson also said that federal response would be a key for when the communities begin to rebuild.

“We just went through this in Puerto Rico, where all the people had to evacuate from Puerto Rico to Florida. It’s just like what happened in Katrina. So many people had to move from New Orleans to Houston. They had to have assistance from FEMA to have a place to live, that’s all long-term,” he said.

CNN has decided to postpone Florida’s Senate debate between Scott and Nelson.

Scott had asked for a two-week delay so he can focus on response and recovery. Nelson’s campaign agreed there should be a delay.

The debate was originally scheduled October 16th. A new date has not been set.


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