There are currently 2 time periods for the Panhandle, pre-Michael & post-Michael. As most know, Hurricane Michael slammed into us at a near Cat 5, on 10/10/18. The world literally came crashing down around us. We rode out the storm we thought was a Cat 3, in our house in Lynn Haven, FL. Why? I now have no idea. Quite a gamble.
We could have been killed or injured. Me, my husband, & 3 children are ok. We most certainly would have lost everything if we hadn’t been here. Because we were here, when our windows failed, we were able to reinforce them w/ custom cut wood, on the fly. We were actually holding the windows back against the wall as my husband cut wood. 150 mph winds & rain were making this extremely challenging & dangerous. Our girl’s rooms, new financed furniture, & many belongings could have been completely demolished without us there. A gamble, indeed.
So, what’s our new normal? Well, post-Michael is comprised of a community of people, who have seen similar destruction 20 years ago, w/ a motto of #850strong, just trying to pick up the pieces of what’s left. We, personally, have not heard from our landlord (a Veteran’s program), at all. Not 1 peep. We chainsawsed trees in the yard, carried the blown down fencing to the road, paid almost $1000 for a tarp on our roof & tried to dismantle our collapsed screened in porch ourselves. Not too mention helping neighbors, cleaning the neighborhood up, & passing out supplies, while losing our source of income & our only vehicle.
First, we heard sirens 24/7, now it’s construction. I was awoken this Sat. morning by the sound of roofers & tractors at dawn, not roosters. Blue rooves from tarps are on every other house. Signs of ghosting landlords & good-for-nothing insurance companies are the norm, not the exception. Homes destroyed, businesses destroyed, lives destroyed. The most notable sights are the pine trees snapped in half, everywhere!
The wind was so strong that it literally bent & snapped almost all of our trees. I see the cleanup of many on private property but in patches of unowned or unkempt land, snapped trees everywhere! I wonder, will they ever be cleared or will we have these reminders here forever? To lighten the tone, here’s a cute little anecdote…we called to get pizza for our daughter’s Bday last night. We asked if they had any specials. The witty kid on the phone said, “yes, we’re open, that’s pretty special”! Ha. I would normally consider that a smartass, rude remark but its so desperately true. Pre-Michael, we had choices. Particularly with pizza, like 6 stores. Now we have 1. They shutdown our mall forever. Getting stuck behind tree trucks is an every day occurrence. These are two semi-truck long contraptions w/ boom arms & about 8 workers blocking traffic. They go up & down the roads, block by block, picking up the rubble of people’s, once normal, lives.
The schools. Our kids were out of school for a month. Some schools couldn’t even reopen so they had to split days. Elementary kids had to go to the high school from 7-12 & the others from 1-5PM. Kids, getting off the bus in the dark in treacherous areas. They passed out flashlights, neon vests, & blinking arm bands for their safety. But, really? How sad. Unbelievable, unimaginable what these children must be thinking, going through.
But on the flip side, the response from all across the U.S. is the light at the end of the tunnel, the saving grace. Federally, the response was incredible. Power trucks, power poles, National Guard, First Responders,the President, FEMA & endless donated supplies were here the very second the winds died down. Verizon towers were out for weeks, many with no way to communicate. So, people were going door to door to check on each other. Samaritan’s Purse, the Red Cross, Churches, & Schools offered shelter & aid of every kind imaginable. The money & letters & trucks & boats & people poured in! There was no end to the generosity & camaraderie. Power was restored in 10 days to our house, amazing. When the kids finally returned to school, letters poured in from across the U.S. from other kids. And the Christmas trees, come December, were lined with tons of donated gifts. Everyone who had anything left cleaned out every square inch of their homes & donated anything they could. Those parts, those were the parts that were beautiful.
Life is different now. We had started an upcycle business weeks before as our main source of income. Put ever $ we had into it. Post-Michael, no one was looking for high-priced repurposed accent type furniture. So that was a fail. People needed homes, beds, linens, clothes, toilet paper… So, that transformed itself into NikNax Cuts-n-Crafts where we can create things from home but sell on a global scale w/ our Etsy Store & apps like Mercari are helping supplement my husband’s Retirement income. We’ve sold a total of 5 items now & I’m super hopeful that there are more sales coming! But the last point I want to make is that, yes, it’s awful what we went & are going thru but we live in THE greatest country in the world, the #USA & w/ a little help from our 300 million friends, we are going to be ok!