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Hurricane Michael

Mexico Beach was destroyed by Hurricane Michael, but that destruction may have helped spare it from the effects of the pandemic.

Mayor Al Cathey says statewide restrictions on bars, restaurants and retail stores left the town’s recovering businesses and residents largely unaffected.

“We’ve had that for two years - 18 months - that didn’t bother us at all. That’s the way we lived,” Cathey said. “We didn’t have to change anything.”

An influx of visitors to Mexico Beach over the weekend signals tourism is off to a better start ahead of the summer vacation season compared to this time last year.

“It’s packed - people are everywhere,” said Mayor Al Cathey after driving down the town’s main road on Saturday afternoon. “The power of that white sand is remarkable.”

Cathey says he didn’t expect so many people to arrive in town for Memorial Day weekend amid the pandemic. “You can’t barely pull off the road,” he said. “I don't know how much gathering we can do on the beach and not have a problem."

NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

Florida’s timber industry remains amid tons of strewn trees from Hurricane Michael as talks continue over the distribution of a $380 million federal-recovery grant allocated in November for the 2018 storm.

It’s been a decade of wild swings and weather extremes in Florida. Record-setting temperature and precipitation trends were noted during the first half of the decade, while multiple major severe and tropical weather events characterized the last five years. We summarized the major weather stories from each year in the article below.

2010: A year governed by climate signals

Engineers are designing for an increasingly soggy future in a rough industrial bay west of Riviera Beach, building Erector set-style defenses to keep out a wily intruder — water.

Rep. Brad Drake, chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee, is the latest Panhandle lawmaker to seek a second round of state funding to aid areas still struggling from Hurricane Michael. In a series of bills filed for the 2020 legislative session that begins Jan. 14, Drake, R-Eucheeanna, is requesting more than $65 million for storm-battered communities in his Northwest Florida district. Drake’s largest request is $60 million for a 200,000-square-foot commerce center in Washington County (HB 4685).

Two former officials of a Florida city are charged with conspiring with two businesses to bilk the federal government out of $5 million in Hurricane Michael cleanup money, the U.S. attorney’s office announced Tuesday.

Florida will get $380.7 million from the federal government to help parts of the timber industry and farms ravaged more than a year ago by 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 12 months ago.  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.

photo of hurricane
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.

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