Just a few short weeks ago, residents of Mexico Beach and Panama City were going about their everyday lives in Paradise; getting up and going to work, tending to family and enjoying this beautiful state like so many of us do. Then there was Michael.
It seemed the storm came out of nowhere. Sure, we saw it on the radar for a few days, but I doubt anyone predicted it would create the devastation and destruction we see in photographs today. There were no weeks of tracking the wobble, nor speculation of spaghetti lines changing course prediction. The fate was certain, only the intensity unknown.
Governor Rick Scott and his team were diligent in their urgent messages to residents, “Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades, you can not hide from storm surge…Evacuate.” Many listened, sadly others decided to ride it out. National media converged on the small-town residents questioning those who hesitated. Lifelong residents reported they had “ridden out worse (or so they thought).” Others felt that the media had hyped Hurricane Florence just a few weeks prior and this might be more of the same. It wasn’t.
The satellite photos are hard to look at, homes and business demolished; families displaced, years of memories gone and of course, lost lives. The death toll is still undetermined. Preparedness efforts and updated building codes likely saved more lives that we will ever know. Our Governor, along with multitudes of volunteers and other agencies were quick to move in once the storm had passed. Survivor rescues have been plentiful. Power continues to be restored. For that, we are so thankful!
As we gather around the table this year to count our many blessings, those who lost so much as well as those of us who were spared the hurricane’s wrath will surely be in our prayers. We’ll hold our loved ones just a bit tighter and we’ll reflect on the many wonderful memories we’ve shared.
The Mayor’s Annual Feed the Hungry Food Drive is once again in focus. I am proud that our office has been a drop off point for many years and will be collecting again in 2018! This program, which began in 1987, has collected more than 600 tons of food and over $3,500,000 in gift card donations that stay in our community. I invite you to join with us to make this holiday just a little more special for those in need. Whether it’s this campaign, a Red Cross donation or another charity close to your heart, small donations can make a big difference when we all join together.