By Carrie Hunter
It’s May 2019, over six months after Hurricane Michael in Panama City.
Stephanie, a young mother of three, walks through her gutted house. Rafters and beams are exposed. There is a bare concrete floor beneath her feet. The roof of her house was replaced and most of the damaged drywall was removed. There is no furniture, family photos, or children’s toys laying around and no electricity or plumbing. To Stephanie, the house no longer feels like a home.
Her husband is at work, and her children are with her sister while she visits the house surveying the damage. Stephanie is a dance teacher and her husband Anthony works at a credit center. Most people would consider them a stable, middle class family that did most things right. They own their own home, have insurance, and provide well for their children. When Hurricane Michael hit, they evacuated.
When Stephanie returned, at first she thought they had been spared. The outside of the house looked okay, but on entering, they saw a hole was torn in the roof. Water, insulation, and debris collapsed the ceiling over their living room and kitchen.
The good news was that their insurance helped the entire family move into a small condo on the beach. Panama City was badly damaged, but just over the bridge the beach area was barely touched. This became the haven for many families in the months after the storm.
Seven people were squeezed in tight into three rooms, but considered themselves lucky compared to the families nearby living in tents. Stephanie still takes her children to dance and martial arts classes each week to keep a sense of normalcy for her girls while they wait for contractors to fix their house.
Insurance covered six months of rent, which they believed would be enough. But in May, that money ran out, and they are still waiting for an electrician to become available. At the same time, tourists flood into Panama City Beach causing the rent to triple. This has left many families without anywhere to go. Most of the affordable housing was destroyed during the storm and hasn’t been rebuilt. The cheap motels that lined Highway 98 are mostly gone, unlikely to be fixed anytime soon.
Tomorrow, Stephanie will pack up her belongings and move for the fifth time to a different condo. This is required because anyone who stays longer than a month becomes a long-term renter, which is against most agreements in tourist areas. Stephanie looks at options like buying a camper trailer or renting an apartment. The costs of all the options of housing in the area are inflated so high that it feels like it will break their finances.
A month later, Stephanie and Anthony are able to rent a camper trailer from a friend. They now live in the driveway of their house. It is still unfinished, but the electrical company has started working.
- Art Classes & Workshops
- Art Events
- Art Galleries
- Call to Artists
- The Incredible Expanding Underwater Museum of Art
- A New Take on Family Get-Togethers
- Holi at Last!
- Restaurant Guide
- Where to Spend Your Happy Hours in Beachcomberland
- Alaqua to the Rescue Again
- Logo All the Way… Destin High School Call for Submissions
- PFLAG Organizes in Niceville
Hurricane Michael Over Six Months Later: Jodie’s Story
By Carrie Hunter There are good people in this world and there is hope. Months after most people have forgotten about the victims of Hurricane Michael, a woman named Jodie Moseley journeys...
Alaqua to the Rescue Again
Late last week, Alaqua Animal Refuge responded to a plea for help from Washington County Animal Control and took in 85 neglected animals from a single property. There were many types of...
Brace Yourselves…The Storm’s A-Comin’
By Charles Morgan III The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s classic American novel, was written 80 years ago. My parents were youngsters in the 1930s when Steinbeck wrote the saga...
And the 2019 Nominees Are…
Don’t get too excited (because I’m not), but here are the nominees for Beachcomber Music Awards Chapter 11 (so called because it’s the 11th one, although our accounting department would beg to...
Beachcomber Music Awards – The VIP Experience
It’s our 11th Beachcomber Music Awards, coming back to Al’s Beach Club & Burger Bar on Okaloosa Island Monday, Aug. 26. You can check out the nominees in 38 (special!) categories in...
Safe Water for Walton County…and Beyond
By Nikki Hedrick “We don’t get another chance at water supply. You either get it right or you get it wrong,” says Kelly Layman, one of the executive board members of...