Crews with bulldozers and dump trucks have removed tons of debris from the Florida Panhandle since Hurricane Michael slammed ashore in October, wrecking miles of homes and businesses, yet signs of the storm’s fury remain everywhere as hurricane season approaches.
Recovery is coming along in other places that have been hit by hurricanes, including South Carolina, which was slammed by Matthew in 2016 and Florence in 2018. In south Florida, where Hurricane Andrew caused devastation in 1992, few physical signs of damage remain.
But on the Panhandle in tiny Mexico Beach, empty concrete slabs line streets where surfside homes used to be. Most of the cars, trucks and homes that were thrown into canals have been removed, but some remain.
The scene isn’t much different in Panama City, which thousands of residents left after Michael and still haven’t returned. Blue roof tarps are everywhere, as are campers where people live in front of gutted homes. For some, tents provide the only shelter.
Michael roared on to land as a Category 5 hurricane with winds of 160 mph (257 kph) on Oct. 10, and many residents are praying there’s not a repeat this year.
“I’ve already lost everything once. We can’t do it again,” Janelle Crosby said.