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Hurricane Michael

Amid the devastation of Hurricane Michael along Florida's Panhandle, experts say there's a ray of hope: a once imperiled bird is enjoying a renaissance.

Hundreds gathered in Mexico Beach on Thursday to celebrate the community’s resiliency one year after Hurricane Michael decimated the small coastal town. 

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says hemp farming in the Panhandle could bring relief from the billion and a half dollar hit to the region’s timber industry. She joined WFSU’s special Perspectives program this week, broadcast from Mexico Beach, on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael that left millions of acres damaged.

Vowing that the state won’t forget hurricane-damaged Northwest Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday made his first use of a controversial economic-development program by saying money will go to a pair of roads tied to workforce housing in Bay County.

A year after Hurricane Michael slammed Florida's panhandle, communities there are struggling, and rebuilding is slow. With housing devastated, local governments are being forced to raise property tax rates to pay for high recovery costs, and a severe housing shortage has caused many, to temporarily leave the area.

A high school marching band greeted shoppers and paraded through the store when a Winn-Dixie supermarket reopened recently. Businesses have been slow to reopen since Hurricane Michael, in part because there aren't enough workers.

Officials estimate there are still years of recovery left after Hurricane Michael slammed into the panhandle this time last year.  But for many who are living in tents or doubled up in homes still in disrepair, that’s too long, and insurance companies are bearing part of the blame for what some see as a slow recovery.

Following Hurricane Michael’s destructive path through Florida’s panhandle, headlines painted a grim future for timber, a major industry in the region. The losses were huge – valued at $1.3 billion. Yet not all was lost, as some lumber and paper mills in the region are still going strong.

Last year, after Hurricane Michael wrought havoc in the Panhandle, school officials began raising concerns about an emergent mental health crisis among students. Bay County Superintendent Bill Hussfelt said in the first four months following the storm, 70 kids had been involuntarily held for mental health treatment through the Baker Act. But in the first two months of this school year, 50 students have already been institutionally committed. 

With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael approaching, local first responders received a $1.1 million grant from the state Thursday, the first distribution from a $25 million fund approved this spring by lawmakers as part of hurricane relief.

State regulators next week will take up proposed rules that could help set the stage for an expansion of underground power lines in hurricane-weary Florida.

Nearly $10 million in property-insurance claims have been filed for Hurricane Dorian, which skirted Florida’s East Coast this month.

A pile of sand and sandbags sit near city of St. Petersburg workers who distribute them in advance of a 2016 storm
City of St. Petersburg/Flickr.com

Hurricanes such as Dorian are providing valuable data and modeling for planners and politicians working to battle climate change.

The process is called resiliency

FSU Researchers Explore Impacts Of Michael On Births

Jul 11, 2019

By  News Service of Florida

Two Florida State University professors have received $400,000 to examine how Hurricane Michael impacted birth outcomes in the Florida Panhandle as a result of infrastructure damage and exposure to carbon monoxide.

Updated projections released on Tuesday predict 13 more named storms will form in 2019, with six being hurricanes and two classified as major hurricanes.
NOAA / NOAA

By Carl Lisciandrello

Researchers at Colorado State University are maintaining their prediction of a near-average 2019 hurricane season.

A tropical depression is likely to form in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but the latest forecast trends may keep the worst of the weather west of the state.

Regardless of its exact track, 1 to 3 inches of rain may fall by Thursday in places along the immediate Gulf coast from near Fort Myers to Pensacola. Nearby seas will also grow unsettled, with minor coastal flooding and a high risk of rip currents expected.

The National Hurricane Center says a trough of  low pressure has an 80 percent chance of develloping into a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico in the next five days.
FLORIDA PUBLIC RADIO EMERGENCY NETWORK

Florida’s Division of Emergency Management is bracing for the potential growth of a storm system expected to move south into the Gulf of Mexico later this week, with particular attention given to Panhandle counties impacted by Hurricane Michael last year.

Trump Signs Disaster Relief Package

Jun 10, 2019

President Donald Trump on Thursday signed into law a $19.1 billion disaster-relief package that Florida officials have sought since Hurricane Michael pounded the Panhandle in October. 

Federal officials are giving the state of Florida $40 Million to help restore timber in the Caloosahatchee Forest.
Florida Forestry Service

Gov. Ron DeSantis says nearly half a billion dollars from the federal government will help Florida timber growers recover from the impacts of Hurricane Michael.

Many Hurricane Michael victims are still feeling the effects of the storm.  It not only caused physical damage to the area, but has left scars on the hearts and minds of survivors. 

Long-Sought Disaster Aid Package Passes House

Jun 4, 2019

A federal disaster-relief package, long sought by Florida officials and Panhandle residents recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Michael, received approval Monday from the U.S. House after three earlier attempts were blocked. 

Anyone who was in Panama City, Fla., last year when Hurricane Michael hit has a story to tell. Christina Harding rode out the storm with her mother, daughter and two nephews. "It was crazy," she says. "We had to tie the door shut because Michael was trying to come into the house with us, which was not what we wanted. It was like bam, bam, bam, bam. Like somebody trying to get in, you know?"

When Hurricane Michael struck the Panhandle of Florida last October, Keith and Susan Koppelman were huddled in the bathroom of their small, two-bedroom rental trailer just north of Panama City.

"When the winds came we both started praying," says Keith, 49. "I thought, 'Oh my God, this is a big storm.' "

After four hours, they finally emerged to survey the damage. The storm's 160-mile-per-hour winds had torn off the porch and peeled away the trailer's tin siding.

Florida Disaster Relief Blocked Again In Congress

May 28, 2019
Hurricane Michael was reclassified as a Category 5 hurricane.
NOAA

A second congressional Republican, arguing for a vote by the full House, blocked an attempt Tuesday to pass long-stalled federal disaster relief funding that would assist Florida’s hurricane-ravaged Panhandle.

The latest move came after a group of Panhandle residents targeted --- through a full-page ad in the Austin American-Statesman newspaper --- a Texas Republican who initially blocked the bill on Friday.

Approval Of Disaster Relief Package Delayed

May 28, 2019

A long-stalled federal disaster relief package, which is expected to help the Panhandle’s recovery from Hurricane Michael, will have to wait for a vote until the U.S. House returns from this weekend’s holiday recess. 

Congress On Cusp Of Delivering Long-Overdue Disaster Aid

May 24, 2019

The Senate on Thursday passed a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill by a broad bipartisan vote, but only after Democrats insisted on tossing out President Donald Trump's $4.5 billion request to handle an unprecedented influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

DeVaughn Putna Farrington / Facebook St. Croix Hurricane Maria Check In page

A Federal Communications Commission report says wireless carriers' poor preparation and coordination lengthened communication outages in the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael. 

A housing crisis has emerged in the wake of Hurricane Michael. Now state and federal money is on the way to address it as local residents and leaders are growing anxious and frustrated. 

Trump Promises More Hurricane Relief For Florida Panhandle

May 9, 2019

President Donald Trump promised a swift infusion of federal aid to the Florida Panhandle seven months after devastating Hurricane Michael as he rallied supporters Wednesday for his re-election. 

Hurricane Michael was reclassified as a Category 5 hurricane.
NOAA

Hurricane Michael, which devastated a swath of the Florida Panhandle last fall, has been upgraded to a Category 5 storm, only the fourth to make recorded landfall in the United States and the first since 1992.

The announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday came as no surprise to those still struggling to recover from the storm's destruction.

"My thought is simply that most of us thought we were dealing with a (Category) 5 anyway," said Al Cathey, mayor of Mexico Beach, which bore the brunt of the storm when it hit.

  April marks six months after Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc in the Florida panhandle and half a year later, Panama City and Mexico Beach are still in shambles.  On the six-month anniversary of the storm, more than 70 organizations came together to host a "Pray for Bay" event meant to unify the community and provide outreach. 

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