While this is tough to share, it is also humbling and inspiring. Hurricane Michael was the strongest hurricane to hit US shores since Andrew. Practically speaking, it was pretty much a Cat 5 when it hit the shore the Florida panhandle on October 10, 2018. With sustained winds of 155 mph, it was just a shade under the 156 mph rank for a Cat 5. We heard reports, however, of gusts up to 178. One hundred and seventy-eight miles an hour. Can you even imagine? I think it might peel the skin off of your face. I honestly don’t know and don’t want to. Although Phillip and I are incredibly grateful for how lucky we were that Michael did make that anticipated hook to the east and missed us entirely here in Pensacola, it is a stark reminder of how close we came to having our downtown, our homes, and our marinas and boats here in Pensacola look like this.
Phillip and I recently had the opportunity to travel to Panama City to deliver hurricane relief supplies to a local church that had put together a drive. We wanted to go to offer our help, of course, but I have to be honest when I say I also wanted to go to see, to document, and to share. Hurricanes are horrific. They’re terrifying and infinitely stronger than you can imagine. Those who have the means to evacuate if a cyclone anywhere close to a Cat 5 is coming, but don’t simply because they feel they can somehow save their house, business, or boat if they stay behind, I hope footage like this can help educate.
The damage in Panama City (the only location we went to) was primarily from wind. While the damage from a hurricane is typically some combination of wind and water via a storm surge, it did not appear in the areas we went to that Panama City experienced a large storm surge. There were no signs of mud slathered across the streets or water lines on the buildings to suggest that. Rather, it seemed in Panama City wind was the deadliest force. It shocked Phillip and I to see entire fields of trees, hundreds of them, all snapped clean in half. Just from the wind. Seeing them all cracked over, my mind instantly tried to re-create the scene mentally watching full-blown, thick-trunked trees breaking from the sheer force of the wind. I could almost hear their horrific cries. I don’t want to visualize these scenes. My mind forces me to when I see damage like this. It is a humbling reminder of who is in charge on this earth, and why we should make a much greater, collective effort to treat her better, to help heal her so we do not feel her wrath as frequently.
While I share this footage to educate, I also want to shine a spotlight on the many, many volunteers we saw out, gathering and giving away supplies. There were people on the side of the road at intersections with signs that read: “Free Lunch” or “Free Supplies.” There were many donation stations. Free food, water, and ice locations. We saw dozens of freshly-mounted new powerline poles along the roads where power company employees had worked feverishly to restore power for those affected.
To the extent we saw devastating damage in Panama City, we also saw courage in the face of disaster. People can sometimes be awful, selfish, terrible things, but it’s nice to be reminded that other times they can be generous, brave, and kind. Here is a link to the American Red Cross’s Hurricane Michael Relief Page if you, too, would like to help the Hurricane Michael relief efforts. To those affected in Panama City, Mexico Beach, Tallahassee, and the surrounding areas, our hearts and thoughts are with you as you regroup and rebuild.