BAY COUNTY & GULF COUNTY, Fla. (WDHN) — Six months after Hurricane Michael, residents of Bay and Gulf County continue to rebuild their homes.
Hurricane Michael made landfall at the Florida Panhandle on October 10, 2018, as a high-end category 4 hurricane with max sustained winds of 155 miles per hour — a strength that fell just short of a Category 5 storm — making it the strongest storm to ever hit the region.
Mexico Beach suffered widespread destruction as homes and buildings were destroyed by powerful winds or completely swept away by a 14-foot storm surge.
Just east of Mexico Beach lies Port St. Joe, a town that caught part of Michael’s eye and suffered damage from a nine-foot storm surge.
Most structures near St. Joseph Bay will have to be completely demolished and rebuilt. The area may never look the same again and will require years of rebuilding before it returns to its former glory.
“I look at maybe the next couple of years (for cleanup),” Storm Monkey Cleanup employee Kevin Booth said. “There’s a lot of devastation. A lot of people without, but it is going to take time to rebuild everything.”
However, even in the midst of darkness and devastation, hope can be found as stories emerge of neighbors helping neighbors with the clean-up process.
Port St. Joe resident Dan Schmidt had three feet of water in his house and is currently rebuilding; he hopes to be back in his home within the year. Yet, despite the challenge ahead of him, Schmidt continues to have a positive spirit.
“I know everybody on the street now,” Schmidt said. “For the first two weeks after the hurricane, we went down and had breakfast with the neighbors. I was given such incredible gifts. The thing I got out of this was just the beauty of people.”
The same sentiment can be said for Mexico Beach, which was ravaged by the highest winds and storm surge than any other area. It was declared “wiped out” by federal emergency management officials.
“We are fortunate to have a house, most people don’t have one here,” said Mexico Beach resident Lynda Adir.
The Adirs nearly lost everything in their house, but it continue to stand high — much like their spirit.
They said they hope to be back in their home sooner rather than later.