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This hurricane was the strongest storm, on record, in the Panhandle of Florida and the 4th strongest ever to hit the shores of the U.S.A.
Originating in the south-western Caribbean Sea on October 2nd. 2018 it strengthened rapidily crossing the Gulf of Mexico and reached a Category 4 by October 9th. With wind speeds of 155mph it made landfall at Mexico Beach, Florida on October 10th. Taking a north-western route through Parker, Panama City, Lynn Haven, of Florida then off to the Carolina’s before dissipating as a tropical storm on October 16th.
Apart from the 15 deaths it caused in South America another 57 died in Florida even though a mandatory evacuation order was issued on October 8th for all those living near the beach, in trailer homes or houses of not sound structure. We spoke to a lady who lived in a rented house in Mexico Beach. Along with 375,000 others already evacuated, she was not given the order to leave till 10 pm on October 9th. Luckily her landlord nearby gave her shelter. Hurricane Michael crashed landed at 12.15 a.m. on October 10th. On visiting her home later that morning she encountered a heap of rubble. That was all that was left. Next door to Mexico Beach lies Tyndall Air Base and they reported some damage to every structure on the base. In some cases whole hangers were wiped out with damaged to million dollar jets.
In all Hurricane Michael left 25.1 billion dollars worth of damaged in the Panhandle of Florida.
Now four months later that destruction can still be seen. Unfortunately, President Trump denied federal money for disaster relief so areas such as the Panhandle of Florida must clean up on their own. Bay County has just organized a loan of 150 million to take away the rubble of homes, businesses, restaruants and stores that line the streets of Panama City, Lynn Haven and other districts, of Bay County, that were in the hurricane’s path. Trees of every size were snapped in half and crews work around the clock to remove, shred and disperse the many trees in this area. The locals have formed self-help groups to tackle this enormous problem. Their slogan is, ” 850 Panhandle Strong “. 850 being the prefix to the telphones in this area.
The inhabitants worked mainly in the hotels, restauants and store businesses and rented their homes rather than owned them. People found homeless after the catastrophe left the area. Landlords, if they had insurance, have fixed up the homes but made the rents higher, so the people have not returrned. Those businesses able to reopen after the clean up have been hampered by few employees to manage them. Students now gone, have caused schools to close, and those still open sorely missing the grants of $ 700.00 per. allowance per. pupil.
We stay for two months of the year in a resort in Panama City Beach which is exactly 40 miles from Mexico Beach. Yet, they did not escape Hurrican Michael’s wrath. Several condominiums on our resort had damage to their roofs. Nearby Zoo World lost two animals in the storm and a restaruant within yards of here was so damaged they have not tried to reopen it.
The lady next door to us is a Home Nurse but she lost her job after Michael. There were no longer enough sick or elderly in the area to appreciate her expertise. She now temps and works hard collecting clothes to organize them for distribution to those that still need help – for those that lost everything.
The hotels in the area gave many temporary accomodation but now the holiday season is upon them they are moving them out. Many trailer parks have been set up to try and keep as many people here as possible. Last we heard there were 40 families still without a roof over their heads and no means to move away. The situation here is desperate. Yet, the people are friendly, helpful and strong and certain they will pull through this on their own inititive. ” 850 Strong “ is everywhere.
This is going to take ages to recover from, but work has at last started and the rebirth has began.