Residents feeling “abandoned” and “forgotten” after Hurricane Michael

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Hurricane Michael came ashore over six months ago. For some, it may be a memory, but the people living in the Florida panhandle are still living in a disaster zone. Creating a daily battle for those who live and work there, every day since the storm hit.

The first responders and the Red Cross have left, but much of the Florida Panhandle is still in pieces. What’s left of the debris here is nothing compared to the 15 million cubic yards of debris that the storm produced in Bay County alone. But after the clean up comes rebuilding, and they still have a long way to go.

“I’m getting choked up talking about it. I didn’t realize how nervous I was at the time,” said Mary Lamb, a Mexico Beach resident. Lamb and her family evacuated before the storm hit. They returned and found their home was destroyed and everything in it lost.

“It’s odd how things are kind of unraveled six months later, you know you just kind of start finding this,” Lamb said.

It has been over six months and she just recently found her car, tossed away from her house in the storm.

Mexico Beach is jumbled, torn apart, crushed, but the people aren’t.

“I remember my kids saying, ‘Mom, what are we going to do? Everybody’s home, what are we going to do?’ And I have these little faces looking at me and I said well we’re going to rebuild Mexico Beach, that’s what we’re going to do,” Lamb said.

Rebuilding has been slow and painful.

Eddie Trejo came from Houston to help rebuild Mexico Beach. He’s been working there for nearly two months.

“I feel so bad for the people over here, because I’ve never seen this kind of destruction,” Trejo said.

That coming from someone who went through Hurricane Harvey.

“You got like 20 or 30 billion dollars worth of damage over here and I don’t see no camera or people over here ‘let’s go save the community.’ No it’s just like y’all got abandoned,” he said. “Y’all over here in the middle of this beautiful paradise beach and no one gives a, no one cares. And I don’t see nobody coming to rescue y’all.”

David Kaiser owns Caribbean Coffee, one of the few places that have opened back up since the hurricane.

“Yeah, we feel like we’ve been forgotten. I mean, basically, we have been,” Kaiser said. “You know they had the California fires right after the hurricane hit here. And the media attention just went away immediately. I talk to people all the time, they don’t know what’s happened here. Or I’ll get phone calls from people trying to sell me something. ‘You know where I’m at? I’m in Mexico Beach.’ And they don’t have a clue. I say, ‘Google it and then call me back if you think you’re going to sell me something.'”

Mexico Beach is in Florida’s “Forgotten Coast.” Before the storm, the name meant the area was quiet, underdeveloped, and unspoiled. Now, being forgotten is a title they don’t want.


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