LYNN HAVEN, Fla. — One year ago today, Hurricane Michael made a beeline straight for the Florida Panhandle.
- In Lynn Haven, vacant parcels of land sit where houses used to stand
- Twelve percent of the population left town, the mayor said
- HURRICANE MICHAEL, 1 YEAR LATER:
Those who were hardest hit by the Category 5 storm are remembering the tragedy, with Lynn Haven holding a celebration and commemoration event.
Teachers led hordes of students into Sheffield Park, parking them on the lawn in front of the stage. Vendors set up tents in a semi-circle, offering up everything from cuddles with comfort dogs to counseling.
“For the number of people who live here, we were protected, and I don’t mind saying divinely so," said Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson.
The fifth-generation resident said that surrounded by water, tidal surge was somehow not an issue for her community, but the wind packed power.
In the city's golf course community, which Anderson described as a desired location for many, for-sale signs dot lawns. Vacant parcels of land sit where houses used to stand.
Twelve percent of the population left town, the mayor said, leaving homes in a frozen state.
“You’ll be amazed at how many houses are sitting not touched since the storm," she said. “There are for sale signs everywhere, and it makes me very sad."
Elsewhere in Lynn Haven, a library built in the early 1900s had just been restored when two pine trees crashed through, splitting McMullin Library in half.
Bay County lost one million trees due to the storm, which the mayor said has led to a myriad of issues, from flooding to a changing ecosystem; fox squirrels, with nowhere to hide, are snatched up by hawks and coyotes prowl, stalking families' pets.
The damage still stops Anderson in her tracks, though she is brimming with optimism about her city's future.
“It will take your breath away sometimes," she said. "You think look what it did to the building and I’m still here."