Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Bay County area of the Florida Panhandle Oct. 15, leaving a wave of devastation in its wake. The Category 4 storm developed in the Gulf of Mexico, swept through Florida and continued onto Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.
Low-income communities of the Panhandle, such as Mexico City and Panama City, have already started their struggle to rebuild, and many of the residents whose homes were destroyed already came from little means.
Joel Rose of National Public Radio (NPR) covered the event in the Panama City area. “I mean, by and large, these are not wealthy communities where the storm did most of its damage,” Rose said. “And it’s hard to see where they’re going to get the money to put on a new roof and maybe a new house.”
Authorities have reported 39 deaths as a result of the storm, 19 of which are in Bay County, Fla., alone. The death toll continues to rise as crews continue to search through debris of collapsed buildings and homes.
Schools in eight affected counties remain closed indefinitely. Some were destroyed entirely, and others are still currently occupied as shelters, according to the Pensacola News Journal. With schools closed, some parents have to stay home with their kids, which also makes getting meals difficult for some children from low-income communities who often received their meals from schools. Shelters are currently distributing basic necessities such as meals and hygienic products.
Many communities, including the hard-hit Panama City, still do not have reliable power or cell service. With banks closed and ATMs not in order, many residents are also struggling to get cash. Many people have to rely on “baby-wipe showers” while crews are in the process of restoring power.
For the time being, residents are working to rebuild their communities despite the wreckage. FEMA has been going door-to-door in affected areas to help residents register for disaster assistance and connecting people to volunteer groups in their locale.
In the aftermath of such a powerful storm as Hurricane Michael, those affected by the destruction cannot return to the previous status quo. They must find a new normal and begin the process of rebuilding.