Monday, June 17, 2019
Home News "We're back on border days": Michael's Aftermath in Florida

"We're back on border days": Michael's Aftermath in Florida


On a red gravel road in the middle of the Florida Panhandle, past fields of ripening cotton, the pine forest looks like pick-up sticks. Some trees are bent like praying mantises, and the few pylons still standing lean against precarious angles, and their wires make loops around the outstretched limbs.

By Saturday, when neighbors broke through with chainsaws and an excavator, the house in Lipford, which had belonged to 160 acres of land since the Civil War, was cut off from civilization. The only way into the compound was an off-road vehicle crossing the wet meadows and bridges of wooden pallets.

"We're back on border days," said Jean Lipford, 50. Since hurricane Michael hit this city on Wednesday, she washed clothes in a bucket and bathed in the stream where her husband made a dam with small stones. Her daughter, Whitney, 23, runs a chainsaw and returns home every two hours to nurse her 6-week-old son.

"I want strength and water, we can handle the rest," said Lipford.

After the destruction of Panama City and the destruction of Mexico Beach, the eye of the storm swept north-northeast like a scythe and brought misery to one of the poorest regions of Florida and neighboring Alabama and Georgia. A large percentage of people live in mobile homes and other vulnerable structures. The destruction extends far inland. Michael retained the strength of the hurricane through the pecan forests and cotton fields of Georgia.

More than 250,000 Florida customers were out of power on Saturday. Sixteen accommodations hosted 1,800 people.

Search and rescue operations continue, not just in Mexico Beach, which has been leveled by a storm surge that could occur have reached 14 feet, but also in the backcountry, where residents resist for themselves and, in some cases, fear that they have been forgotten by the outside world.

Deborah Bayer rode out of Hurricane Michael, who kept her Bible in the bathroom of her mobile home in Lynn Haven, a small town north of Panama Beach. The sky darkened, the power went out, the wind howled and she felt the whole structure change on her foundation. A tree crashed on the roof.

"It was a fun ride, I just sat there and read my Bible, had some candles on it, just hanging out and waiting for it to go by," recalled the 47-year-old Bavarian, who lives in a trailer park.

She and other residents had been evacuated by elected officials before the hurricane. But how? Where? She is a minimum wage worker in a call center. She could not afford a hotel room. And the storm came so fast that there was not enough time to prepare for a multi-day stay in a remote shelter.

In Bristol, a tiny town in Florida's smallest county, Liberty, where the main road is two lanes and half of the country is in a national forest, Emergency Management Director Rhonda Lewis was cut off from the rest of the world. No power, no landline or mobile phone connections, no internet. A satellite phone would not work. It kept saying "search". , , Search. , , Search, "said Lewis.

It was not until Thursday evening that she managed to find a man with an amateur radio in neighboring Calhoun County and bring him back to Bristol, where she could call for help.

"Rebuilding will be a problem because they are so poor, many of the houses had no insurance," said Lewis.

In the Ace Hardware store, lines have been formed where people pick up relief supplies. The Red Cross has arrived.

On Friday, Tiffany Garling, director of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce – where Dry Creek is located – spent the night sleeping for the first time since Sunday when she went to work in the district emergency department. She does not know how many people are still cut off in this largely rural district, where peanuts and cotton are the main agricultural commodities.

"I have no idea, that's the scary thing, there's no way to guess," she said.

The process of street cleaning is cumbersome, highways need attention in front of state roads, county roads or individual roads – many of which are blocked with huge oak trees that require heavy equipment to move, not just a chainsaw.

Garling believes the county in residential areas is 100 percent de-energized.

"Our problems are different than the city," she said. Without electricity, people can not get water from their wells.

Hayes Baggett, the chief of police near Marianna, said that domestic communities never get as much attention as the white sand beaches. But people are moving together, he said. There were some initial crimes and a few thefts, but no widespread looting.

Families in the Liberty and Jackson districts have been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for individual help, according to the governor's office, and food and water are being dumped in the hardest-hit regions.

Similar stories took place in neighboring Georgia, where Becky Abshire, a lifelong resident of Albany, was worried about raising her 10-year-old grandson Ashton for the $ 750 she receives from her disability pensions.

The 60-year-old Abshire evacuated her three-bedroom caravan, but found that a tree had hit the bedroom she shares with Ashton.

"What I can not afford, I hope my son will," she said. But the son has his own family to support.

Rescue operations take place inland on unpaved roads that are still blocked by fallen trees. Teams who can not reach the villagers by vehicle need to walk, said Sean Collins, 47, a retired firefighter in Marianna.

"We do not know if some older people who live in these forests are okay and that they have been contacted," he said.

Because Marianna is so far from the coast – closer to Alabama than to Panama City – the residents have not evacuated, he said.

"No one thought it would be so devastating," Collins said.

Even in parts of Panama City, aid seemed a long way off. A community of garden-style apartments, the Garden Dickinson Memorial Homes, known as the 11th Street Projects, was no longer recognizable after the storm. The parking was flooded. Several apartments were without a roof; Furniture was destroyed. Families slept on their cars and benches.

On the other hand, a gas leak had worried the residents about a possible explosion.

No, nothing came, "said Samantha Gardner, 33. Her 6-year-old boy had two asthma attacks on Wednesday night, she said, and calls to the police for help remained unanswered.

"He needs a machine, we have no power, we have no water, we have nothing," she said.

In town, Patty Butler, 52, cried as she walked with her dog in her neighborhood. Their mall, which housed a grocery store, print shop, and convenience store, was destroyed. The roof is gone. Shutters closed, shop fronts broken.

"It's awful," she said. "They have the best tamales you'll ever eat," she said, looking at the ruined building. Butler's house was largely spared, trees around him were all down and their boat turned around.

"We have a small hole in the roof and all our fencing is gone, but we can live with that, other people have lost everything, I'm so blessed, God is good, He's been with us all the time."

For this close-knit community, where neighbors sought after the storm for other neighbors, those with service to their phones passed on to others.

"It will bring us closer, much closer," she said. "I really feel in my heart that we will come back stronger than ever."

How and where the people strike back remains unclear.

Betty Davis, 80, lives in the historic African American community in Apalachicola, known as the hill dating from the 1830s, spent Friday afternoon thinking about what had happened and what might come next.

"I lay down on the ground and I could hear the thing coming and it sounded like two trains, on separate tracks," Davis said.

Many locals in Apalachicola depend on strong family ties to withstand difficult times, but once lush oyster fishing has collapsed in recent years, adding to the pressure. Davis said she did not know how poorer people would be after the storm.

But she knows one thing.

"If they see another coming," said Davis, "I'll go – if I have to go, I'll never do that again."

Lazo reported from Lynn Haven, Fla., And from Albany, Ga. Achenbach and Sellers reported from Washington. Kevin Begos from Apalachicola, Florida contributed to this report.



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