Part of Florida Panhandle still hurting after Hurricane Michael

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Paulina “Bela” Sebastiao would give almost anything to be able to do a load of laundry without having to drive miles from her Mexico Beach home. Anthony Campbell would appreciate having a gas station closer than an hour away from his house in Parker. And Patrick Muth just hopes it doesn’t rain when it’s time to go to work: His “office” in Panama City consists of a desk surrounded by rubble under an open sky.

Life is still a struggle in the county hardest hit by Hurricane Michael, which carved a wide swath of destruction through the Florida Panhandle when it roared ashore on Oct. 10 with winds of 155 mph.

Drivers who have lived in the area for years second-guess themselves about whether they’re going the right way — the street signs, trees, and houses that once served as points of reference are gone. Many doctors’ offices haven’t reopened and one of the county’s two hospitals was closed, even though Bay County residents are experiencing hurricane-related health problems such as respiratory illness.

Students in schools damaged by the storm have moved into other facilities, dropping enrollment by 14 percent. Bay County had about 183,000 residents before the storm, and about 7,800 people were estimated to be homeless in January.

Shopping for groceries is burdensome since many retailers haven’t reopened yet. Many of those that have are selling limited goods from pop-up trailers parked in front of their damaged properties.

Garbage collectors aren’t even close to removing the 15 million cubic yards of Sheetrock, insulation, tree limbs and appliances strewn everywhere by the storm.

Amid such disruption, once-mundane everyday tasks now require a combination of planning, patience and luck.

“It’s just a hassle,” said Campbell, who is retired. “With everyday life … everything is different. You have to readjust.”

After Hurricane Michael destroyed the Mexico Beach house of Bela and Jaques Sebastiao, they lived in a tent in their front yard and then a camper. They recently received a trailer from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but it took more than a month before they were allowed to move in since they needed a special tank for sewage. The trailer had a shower and not being able to use it for weeks was “torture,” they said.

The Sebastiaos, along with two other neighbors, were the only residents who had returned to their beachside street in Mexico Beach, where homes were either blown off their foundations during the hurricane or intentionally knocked down after the storm because they were deemed too damaged. Every two weeks, they drive hundreds of miles (kilometers) to their son’s place in Georgia to do laundry.

“We don’t have any showers, no laundry, no supermarkets,” Jaques Sebastiao said in the days before they could move into their trailer.

In some cases, county residents have been hindered in their efforts to rebuild and repair. Mexico Beach — which became the poster child of the storm with its rows of empty cement foundations where houses once stood — had a moratorium on new construction until mid-February to allow new flood maps to be designed.

Even with the green light to go ahead, residents are having difficulty getting commitments from in-demand contractors, said Campbell, whose home developed mold after a dispute with his insurance company delayed repairs.

Principals and teachers at Bay County schools are on the lookout for students who are wearing dirty clothes or missing shoes. Northside Elementary School in Panama City was given industrial washers and dryers so students can get their clothes cleaned, and staffers have filled a broom closet with donated shoes and clothing.

“We have so many students who are living from place to place and the faculty is living place to place,” said Principal Amy Harvey. “Academics has to be important, but we want to make sure these kids are emotionally OK before we can teach them anything.”

Since his trucks weren’t damaged, Muth kept operating his plumbing business with barely a hiccup, and he’s already planning to rebuild his office space. But given the extensive damage to plumbing everywhere, his regular customers don’t always realize it may take weeks before he can get to them. When making service calls, he calls ahead to make sure the roads are clear and there is gas available in the area.

“It’s just not going to be what it was for a long time,” Muth said. “All of it has changed.”

For law enforcement, the biggest problems since the storm are the pervasiveness of unlicensed contractors and the illegal dumping of debris on the sides of roads. Otherwise, though, the hundreds of officers from outside agencies who came to Bay County in the weeks after the storm helped keep the crime rate down, said Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford.

Would-be criminals are perhaps discouraged by signs like the one on two wooden boards covering windows at R & D Auto Electric in Parker. They read, “Stay out. You look, we shoot!”

“Make no mistake. Things are very tough here, and there are people who are living in very difficult circumstances,” Ford said. “We are still hurting and we’re going to be hurting for a long time.”

News Videos
Fiery accident in Las Vegas
A three-car accident on Spring Mountain Road around 6:30 pm on Monday night
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Teenager in critical condition after being struck by an SUV in Henderson
Authorities were called about 2:45 p.m. to the scene in the 2100 block of Olympic Avenue, near Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road. The teenager was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Water Question Part 3: Conservation loves a crisis
Future growth in the Las Vegas Valley will rest almost entirely on the community’s ability to conserve its finite share of the Colorado River.
The Water Question Part 7: How much can we grow?
Many experts agree that Southern Nevada can continue to grow, so long as residents are willing to do what needs to be done to stretch our crucial resource as far as it will go.
The Water Question Part 6: How many people can Southern Nevada’s water sustain?
The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth, conservation efforts and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
Mylar Balloon Demo
NV Energy presented a demonstration Wednesday to depict the damage that can be caused by the release of Mylar balloons.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing