Martha Tindel, who lives in Panama City, called the anniversary a “tough day.”
MEXICO BEACH - A year after Hurricane Michael wrecked Mexico Beach, the community came out to reflect on progress made since then.
The Category 5 storm plowed through the small waterfront town on October 10, 2018. Officials, residents and visitors gathered in front of the Mango Marley’s food truck Thursday to highlight perseverance on the one year anniversary.
“I said a year ago I had no earthly idea what would happen in the 12 months that have just passed but I did know the people of this community would not settle for anything less than what we had,” Mayor Al Cathey said. “We can sit here and talk about what we had and lost. I think it’s more important we talk about what we will have again and that is basically because of all of you.”
People chatted and enjoyed music and food while sitting in lawn chairs. Buildings are still damaged and some have been outright demolished. Businesses have reopened and some tourists have trickled back in to enjoy the quiet and close view of the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. Highway 98, the main roadway, recently reopened following repairs. Overall debris costs—including the canal—for Mexico Beach are around $60 million, though FEMA so far is reimbursing some of that.
Martha Tindel, who lives in Panama City, called the anniversary a “tough day.” A lot of her friends “lost everything,” she said.
“I’ve been anxious all day. Driving down here is like bringing it all back because this is just devastating but we’re hanging in there and getting out and moving on,” Tindel said. “I wish people outside of this area knew about it. It’s really sad for us. We’ll get back. We’re strong.”
People weren’t prepared for the impacts from the strong winds because of how fast the storm came on. Residents were initially told the storm could be a Category 2 or 3, which Tindel said locals have “lived through that, no problem.”
“And then all hell broke loose,” Tindel said.
Florida Chief Financial Officer and Bay County native Jimmy Patronis said a lot of people are still hurting and haven’t gotten closure.
“I want to let you know the help’s not going to stop,” Patronis said. “The efforts aren’t going to stop until everyone’s made right.”
Brian Bungay had to move to Callaway after his Parker home got damaged by a tree. He said the recovery is going good and “a lot better than I thought it would be.”
“It’s slow but it’s going to recover,” Bungay said. “It needs to recover but it will.”
Navarre resident Lydia Sanchez attended the event after coming to Mexico Beach on a whim and didn’t initially realize it was the one year anniversary. She recalled seeing news reports on the storm a year ago and was “on pins and needles” because she didn’t know where it would go at the time.
“We were surprised it was a year,” Sanchez said. “We prayed for them and their recovery and we saw on the news there’s still a lot of people that haven’t come back because they can’t.”
She was glad to donate to the recovery and said her heart goes out to everyone still struggling. Sanchez had never been to Mexico Beach before.