Hurricane Michael and the Emerald Coast

6 days in.  What’s happened and where we stand.

The Facts
Hurricane Michael arrived at almost a Category 5 in intensity, as it made landfall on the Gulf Coast near Mexico Beach, Florida, ranking by pressure as the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States.  October 10th, 2018, was a day we will never forget.  Michael slammed into our home, with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, classified as a category 4, just two notches from taking the crown, as the most powerful hurricane on the scale.

Locals Stayed
Although mandatory evacuations were in place, a large percentage of the residents decided to stay and “ride out the storm”.  As a local, I attribute much of this to many storms dramatized by the media, that fizzle out to merely blowing leaves around the yard.  Storm after storm, locals have gathered their families and blazed a trail north, to avoid the dangers associated with direct impact, but as of late years people have become tired of the rush and wait and doubt the projections given by meteorologist.  Hurricane Michael was different.  Even on social media locals were asking locals to get out, siting a “bad gut feeling” about the potential danger.  Many left that normally stay, but 330,000 people, in the direct line of impact, reportedly defied the evacuation and hunkered down.

33 deaths have been reported thus far, 18 in the United States, but none of those include a count for Mexico Beach, which has nearly been wiped from the map.  Six days, it’s been today, and the search and rescue teams are still digging through the rubble that was once a perfectly quiet little beach town, in search of the living or the dead.  The population was that of about 1000 people.  Reports indicate that around 280 people chose to stay in Mexico Beach, many vocalizing on social media that they regretted the decision, but that it was “too late” and that they “we’re not aloud to leave now “.  A large portion of first responders were even evacuated late in the day October 9th, due to the hurricanes continual strengthening.  Evacuees and other people alike are still not aloud into the small city of Mexico Beach.  The streets are unrecognizable, covered in large debris and mounds of sand, and what’s left of the structures has been moved out of their places.  There’s not a tree or blade of grass to be found; the city is utterly destroyed.  The few people that somehow managed to survive the impact, have unbelievably risen from the rubble and thrown themselves into search and rescue efforts, to help find their neighbors and friends.  There are leaked reports of bodies washing up on the shore and rumors of children that stayed behind with there families.  We are absolutely crushed, by the inevitable reality, that our community has lost many souls to this storm.  President Trump and the first lady are in South Georgia, making their way down the line of destruction, but I truly believe that they are going to be surprised by what they see here.  Relief workers and storm chasers that have worked hurricanes all over the country for a decade have said that in all of their years they have never seen anything like what they see here.  It’s been described as a “war zone”, “complete obliteration”, and “total devastation”.  Almost everyone here has lost something in this storm, but some have lost everything.  Not just our homes, but everything inside of them, the car in the driveway, the places where we work, and for some of us, even the ones we love.

Nevertheless, the kindness that follows a catastrophe like this is always amazing and overwhelming.  It’s the one time that you see people sacrificing everything to do something.  Race, religion, and orientation have no place in the bubble that is goodness and philanthropy.  Food and supply trucks are coming in, even from places a little north of here, that were also badly damaged.  The outpouring of love and support from our neighboring towns has helped us to not lose hope for the future.  We will move forward and rebuild our community.  At Noble are doing everything we can to make that happen.  We have people sleeping in our office, where thankfully, we have kept power most of the time, and water some of the time.  Even though our phones are  down and we have no internet, we are moving forward with helping people with their insurance claims that have reached out to us. The ones of us that have working personal devices are making calls, answering emails, taking pictures of properties and putting estimates together in an attempt to push forward through the rubble and begin the build back of the lives that were spared. 8.1 Billion dollars in damage is the monster that we’re up against, so it will likely take a few years to restore our beautiful coast, though it will never look the same.  Power has been restored to 95% of the 4.4 million that lost it, but there are still at least 80,000 without in the Panama City and Mexico Beach areas.

If you’re reading this and you are off in the distance in a safe and secure place, please pray for us.  There is a God in Heaven who knows our need and hears our cries, and if you feel compelled and are able, please search out an avenue in which you can donate.  We need supplies, food and water, clothing, hygiene items, baby diapers and just about everything you could ever think of.  Thank you for considering the needs of others in this very trying time.

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