Recovery from Hurricane Michael

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday, the 18th of October, 2018. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up on The World and Everything in It: Hurricane Michael recovery efforts.

More than a week has passed since Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle. It was the third-strongest storm to ever hit the U.S. mainland. Michael left a trail of destruction that battered five states and claimed at least 32 lives.

REICHARD: Panama City, Florida, is normally a sandy, sunny tourist destination. In fact, just last year Panama City Beach attracted a record 17 million visitors to its glittering waters. But that was before the area took a direct hit from Michael last week.

Now some are struggling to meet basic needs like food and shelter. WORLD Radio’s Kim Henderson has our story.

KIM HENDERSON, REPORTER: Last Thursday, families in Florida awoke to the sound of sirens…

AUDIO: [Siren]

And a new set of scenery.

AUDIO: Trees, just acres of trees snapped at about six feet above the ground, like twigs. There is no power. There is no water.  There is no communication. Streets have been blocked. The front side of that had caved in. There are some people who have been literally trapped in their homes. The roof had major damage, and with that there was a lot of water damage on both levels. Car dealerships where row after row of brand-new cars are sitting there with the windows blown out… 

Scenery wasn’t the only thing Michael changed. Regular life, for now, is on hold. Businesses are closed, school is out, and authorities are strictly enforcing a nightly curfew.

Retired pastor Bob Hayes is a long-time Panama City resident. He’s lived through five hurricanes. But not one like this.

HAYES: I left my home, and when I came back I turned down the street that I live on—and for a moment I thought that I had turned on the wrong road because the landscape had so radically changed. Trees that I’d seen all my life were no longer there… 

Principal Michael Sabo rode out the storm inside Covenant Christian School. Its main facility was built to withstand a Category 4 hurricane like Michael. But it suffered damage along with other structures in the area.   

SABO: I was speaking to the mother and she was telling me they lost their home, all of their vehicles, and they lost their business, which was a restaurant. And when I was talking with her, her biggest concern was the school. And if the school was going to be ok…   

Sabo’s goal is to get the classical Christian school up and running as quickly as possible.   

SABO: We have a tentative plan for next week… One of the big reasons for that is for a sense of normalcy… Everyone has gone through a traumatic event, and this is one of the aspects I feel like—it’s going to be one of the most healing aspects…

While they heal, residents face all sorts of challenges to daily life. United Way official Rick Owen told me gas lines are a good example. He said some people are driving 40 to 50 miles to find a working gas station.

A typical generator consumes about five gallons of gas every eight hours. Do the math, and you can see the problem.
Pastor Bruce Barton of Central Baptist Church realizes some Panama City residents are getting gas for another reason.

BARTON: I had folks in my parking lot yesterday. They were in their U-Haul hooking their cars up. They’re moving. All the renters here, it’s just over for them…

Authorities estimate that more than 25-hundred structures are damaged in Panama City’s county. 162 have been destroyed.

BARTON: It’s very humbling. I’m not in poverty myself, but when you have to stand in line for food, it’s very humbling.

The Central Baptist Church facility is a total loss, so Barton has ordered a tent structure.

BARTON: I call it a canvas cathedral… Probably going to have to last us about a year while we rebuild. Sometimes the wind will rage, before you sail calm waters. Sometimes it takes a storm, to find a hiding place.

Last Sunday, the congregation held its worship service outdoors. Barton’s wife, Donna, sang.

Bob Hayes also speaks of God and trust and storms.   

HAYES: In any kind of tough situation, this is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it… You know, faith is what sustains in a time like this.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kim Henderson.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Neighbors Bob Coleman, left, and Ron Adkisson, search the sites of their former homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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