Florida town leveled by Hurricane Michael faces daunting task of rebuilding

World Today

Florida town leveled by Hurricane Michael faces daunting task of rebuilding

The death toll from Hurricane Michael has risen to at least 17, and there are fears that number will grow. It’s one of the worst storms to strike the United States in decades. CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports on one Florida community that’s just beginning to pick up the pieces.

While picking up whatever he could salvage, Pastor Geoffrey Lentz tries being the strong man for his community.

“It’s really heartbreaking to see the church, the parsonage where I live in shambles,” he says. “My real concern is so many of the members, of this church and this community that have lost their homes just completely devastated, ” He said.

The pastor did his best to hold back his tears. When asked how he was doing, he responds, “I’m hanging in there really. I’ve collected a couple of pictures from the house, and some important belongings, and my family is safe.”

All of Lentz’s possessions are scattered around. His washing machine lies on the ground, surrounded by pictures and kitchen utensils.

It’s one more beach town in the Florida panhandle decimated. In Port St. Joe, locals say more than 60 percent of the homes won’t be salvageable. The storm surge destroyed their foundations, and most of the properties will need to be demolished.

Sony Burnette is a retired senior living in Port St. Joe. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he exclaims. “I’ve always sat them out, but this time, if I would have been smarter, I would have gone out of town. I didn’t know it was going to be like it was.”

More than a dozen people have died, and that number is expected to climb as workers search through the rubble in towns like Mexico Beach.

The storm’s brutality stretched across five states. Nearly a million people are still without electricity, and clean-up has just begun. It will take months – if not years – for these communities to recover a sense of normalcy.

Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base was also hit by the torturous winds. Every structure on base was either damaged or destroyed.

People in Port St. Joe understand they have a huge struggle ahead to rebuild. “Everybody is saying we are going to go one day at a time, move forward and make a strong community,” says Lentz. “We don’t know what it will look like, but Port St. Joe will come back.”

Pastor Lentz’s faith seems to be intact. He managed to recover his wedding photo; that’s one precious memory not even this natural disaster could sweep away.

Sean Sublette talks about Hurricane Michael’s devastation

For more on the aftermath of Hurricane Michael and the relation between climate change and extreme weather. CGTN’s John Terrett spoke with Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with the science and news organization Climate Central.