If you’re a weather-watcher like I am (remember that back when this blog started in 2009, one of its major themes was Hurricane Katrina–its losses and its preservation success stories), you’ve spent quite a bit of time over the past week glued to images of Hurricane Michael popping up in the Gulf of Mexico and speeding straight into the Florida Panhandle, Georgia, and beyond. Once the pictures and video of devastation started coming out of Panama City, Mexico Beach, and Port St. Joe, it’s become clear that Michael caused Katrina-level damage to those communities, a comparison I had never hoped to make for the Florida beaches I’ve been haunting since childhood.
It’s been hard to get a sense of the overall level of damage from the news and Facebook reports, but as with Katrina, one of the best sources of information is the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) high-resolution aerial images taken over the last few days that allow you to scan up and down the Florida coast and into inland communities that experienced Michael’s severe winds, such as Tallahassee, Marianna, and Bainbridge, Georgia. You can zoom way in to see houses and hotels with their roofs sheared off (my initial thought is that there is much more wind damage from Michael than there was in Katrina, but its surge wasn’t as devastating as Katrina’s), houses that clearly floated somewhere they weren’t originally, and many, many empty lots in Mexico Beach.
The best summation of my feelings in the last 4 or 5 days has come from Marshall Ramsey in his Clarion-Ledger commentary “An open letter to those affected by Hurricane Michael.”
The shock will fade eventually and then you have to get to work. You’ll figure out quickly if you have enough insurance or if it covers your damage. (Sadly, many of us don’t check our policies until disaster strikes.) The weather will be eerily calm after the storm — at least outside. Inside your head, it will continue to storm. We know.
You will feel very, very alone.
Here’s the good news. You aren’t.
Like the end of the movie “Field of Dreams,” there will be long lines of vehicles with volunteers coming to help. Vans full of chainsaws and casseroles will pull into your cities and towns — to cut the trees off your house and to feed you. Power trucks will pour in as soon as the wind dies down. And like the heroes they are, linemen will perform amazing feats as they get your power back on. We can tell you from experience — a power truck is like an ice cream truck for grownups.
. . . .
The government will do its best to help (hopefully). There will be aid in the form of water, loans, money and labor. But when things fall through the cracks (and they will), faith-based and volunteer organizations will pick up the slack. We discovered that first-hand, too. In fact, we couldn’t have gotten back on our feet without their help. It was truly faith jumping off the pages into practice. Even today, we are deeply grateful for all the people who came to our rescue in our time of need.
We’ll keep you updated on historic resources affected by Michael and ways you can help.
More about hurricanes . . .