The coastal regions of Florida’s panhandle are covered in debris and thousands of oyster shells. There is damage in every direction. Residents are already starting to get out in the streets and around businesses, picking up all the pieces.
“We’re survivors,” says Lynn Martina, owner of Lynn’s Quality Oysters in Eastpoint, as reported by NPR. “We’ve done it before. It’s just the price we pay for living where we live.”
Lynn has been through this before. In 1985, the oyster shop was completely swept away by a hurricane. The building was re-built to be stronger, and it was. Unfortunately, Hurricane Michael ripped the back wall off the building. Water carried everything inside away.
In other coastal areas, boats sit in the middle of town, carried by the storm from the beach. Residents in Apalachicola have not yet received any aid from FEMA. The trucks passed through on their way to Mexico Beach, the area hit hardest by the storm.
Residents here are doing their best to clean up from the storm on their own. They’ve been clearing the roads, hooking up generators to get power to buildings, and creating phone charging stations for people to use.
Emergency crews are headed into Mexico Beach first. This is where Hurricane Michael made landfall with 155 mph winds on Wednesday. Around 2,000 people live there, and more than 200 are estimated to have stayed in the area despite evacuation warnings.
A former mayor of Mexico Beach said “the mother of all bombs doesn’t do any more damage than this,” according to Telegraph.
Officials still have not conclusively determined how many residents of Mexico Beach survived, and the entire area has not yet been searched. However, around 80 percent of the region has been checked and officials say there is no sign of widespread deaths.
Food and water supplies have already been sent to the area.
FEMA administrator Brock Long says he expects the death toll to rise as the debris is cleared away.
“Hopefully it doesn’t rise dramatically, but it is a possibility,” Long said.
Those who are still in the Mexico Beach area were out and about on Friday, cleaning up debris and ripping water-logged carpeting out of buildings to prevent mold. This part of Florida was nearly leveled by Michael, and many buildings are destroyed.
Search and rescue teams are combing the area, searching through debris. After residents and rescue crews were already beginning the cleanup, the National Guard began to roll in. A bulldozer began to clear the main road as volunteers handed out bottles of soda and water, according to the Miami Herald.
“It’s like a war zone,” Gov. Rick Scott said of the devastation.
Homeowners returning to the area Friday were shocked by the extensive damage. On nearby U.S. 98, entire houses are sitting on the road among piles of debris.
“We don’t have any water, sewer, power,” said Mexico Beach Mayor Cathey. People are working under grim circumstances. But they’re working to get everything cleaned up, and hopefully recover some of what they’ve lost.