At least 13 are dead in the wake of Hurricane Michael. It’s now a post-tropical cyclone over the Atlantic Ocean, but it left extensive damage that will take years to fix. CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports from the community of Mexico Beach, which was hit especially hard.
Hurricane Michael made landfall in Mexico Beach, a small community of retirees in the Florida Panhandle.
Their town was leveled by winds of 250 kilometers per hour.
“You got your neighbors over here that you talked to for years and years and just – everything’s gone,” Joey Pullen, a full-time resident of Mexico Beach said. He was seated on a beach chair just staring at all the devastation.
Some residents defied the mandatory evacuation orders and stayed. Debbie McCoy had nowhere to go. She has an ill husband and her beloved pet.
“Everything is all right, we didn’t get hurt or anything, but it was when the water started coming up, I was more scared there more than I’ve ever been scared in my life,” she recalled. “I just cry to think about it, because I didn’t know if it was going to stop. I kept thinking what will happen, if it gets over our head?! But it didn’t.”
Mexico Beach has no barrier island to protect it from the storm surge. Those that ride the storm out acknowledged they should have left. “It was very rough, like being a sandblasting machine,” adds Pullen.
Chirla Nunnelley moved to Mexico Beach from Kentucky. “My husband and I stayed in the stairwell, we didn’t stay in our unit. We thought it would completely blow out, so we went to the stairwell and we braved out the storm,” she explained.
About a hundred kilometers to the west, Panama City Beach is partly in ruins. There are fallen trees and downed electric lines everywhere. Hurricane Michael left a trail of destruction, and survivors count their blessings.
Gale Cooney, a doctor from Panama City Beach, is happy to be alive. “Well, we lost homes and we lost our place to work, our cars got beat up. So you lose your transportation, your place of business, but we didn’t lose any lives.”
In the coming days, residents will begin returning to the Florida Panhandle. It will be a heartbreaking moment – once they see the devastation the storm left behind.