FLORIDA — Two months after Hurricane Michael hit the panhandle, people living in areas hardest hit still face a long road to recovery. While crews have cleared many roads and fixed power lines, residents say much destruction remains.
On October 10, Hurricane Michael’s winds blew seven huge trees onto Ricky Emanuel’s family’s home. Emanuel says luckily, in the weeks since the storm, his family was able to find another home to live in.
“We’ve got a lot of demolition going on but a lot of putting back,” said Emanuel. “And they’re saying it’s going to be five or six years before we’re back to normal.”
Emanuel says many people are still living in tents in front of their damaged homes. On Monday, dozens of people who’ve been living in a makeshift tent city in a Panama City church parking lot had to find somewhere else to live when the tent city was shut down.
“I’m not sure where they’re going to go or what they have going on; it’s really sad they’re being forced to leave the only place they’ve called home for the last few months,” said Heather Anderson, a Panama City resident.
Bay Medical, the main hospital in the Panama City area, has never fully re-opened since the storm. Hospital officials just announced in early December they’re laying off about 600 employees, because the hospital will only be able to re-open about a fourth of its previous operations.
The building was heavily damaged by the hurricane. Hospital administrators say about three-fourths of their employees left the area because their homes were so badly damaged.
Emanuel says for people still living in the area, life is tough. Some people still don’t have power or water. He says just going to buy groceries can be difficult since only a handful of businesses have re-opened.
“There’s only two lines open in all of Walmart, so two cashiers are working, and you can just imagine the volume,” said Emanuel.
Emanuel says trying to celebrate the holidays will be tough.
“So when it comes to Christmas I tell me kids that it might not be as good as this year as it has been in previous years,” said Emanuel.