MARIANNA, FL (WTVM) - It’s been nearly half a year since Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Florida Panhandle, but Panama City and Mexico Beach are not the only ones still hurting after the storm.
A former Columbus resident who now lives in Marianna, Florida, a town located about 60 miles northeast of Panama City, wants to shed light on the issues more rural communities have been dealing with in the aftermath of the record-breaking hurricane.
“There was no birds here. You couldn’t hear crickets; you couldn’t hear frogs. There was no animal life here.” recalls Sandra Reed. “There was no cell service, no WiFi, no computers, no lights, no nothing.”
Sandra Reed and her husband evacuated their mobile home in Marianna and took shelter from Hurricane Michael at a local high school.
“The wind was so loud,” describes Sandra. “We really thought it was going to pull the roof off the gym.”
Once Michael passed through the Panhandle, the evacuees waited anxiously to hear if their homes had made it through the storm.
“One of the county commissioners came in and briefed us,” says Sandra. “And he said, his words were, ‘I’m not gonna sugarcoat this, it has been catastrophic damage to Jackson County. You can’t go home.’”
After three weeks, the Reeds finally returned to their mobile home. Though their property only had minor damage, their neighbors were not so fortunate.
“Pine trees were beautiful liabilities if you own a home.”
Five months later, north Floridians still need major help to cope with the damage.
“The inner parts of Marianna are still really bad. They have a lot of trees down, there’s still people living in campers,” describes Sandra. “There’s still a lot of people who don’t have electricity here.”
Sandra hopes the new spring season will not just bring travelers to the Panhandle, but also usher in a new wave of help to her neighbors in need.
“I don’t want the small communities to be forgotten,” Sandra says. “There are more people and there are more counties that need help. And the counties that need it are the poorest ones with the poorest people.”
Sandra says there are still countless houses with blue tarps on their roofs, so anyone to help with those repairs, in addition to donating clothes and school supplies would be a huge asset. Plus, a few chainsaws would not hurt either.