Residents Of Mexico Beach, Fla., Face Many Challenges In Hurricane Michael Recovery

Oct 13, 2018
Originally published on October 15, 2018 12:15 pm
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SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, HOST:

And now to hurricane recovery efforts in Florida's panhandle, where residents are assessing the damage and rescue crews continue to go house by house in some of the worst hit areas. In some places, entire blocks have been flattened by the wind and storm surge. The Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan is in Marianna, Fla., and she joins me now.

Patricia, what are you seeing out there?

PATRICIA SULLIVAN: Well, I'm currently sitting next to the First Presbyterian Church right in downtown Marianna. And one lane of this road is blocked because the trees are down. They're still down now three days after the storm. The fire chief just told me that the day after the storm - which would have been Thursday, I guess - he said every street in this town was blocked by trees - every single street.

There's no power here. There's very little cell service here. But without power, you sometimes don't have water if your pumps, you know, are connected to the electric grid. You don't have oxygen if you're, you know, medically compromised. It's a real challenge for a poor town in one of the poorest areas of Florida.

MERAJI: How does that compare to Mexico Beach, where we know there was so much damage?

SULLIVAN: Mexico Beach is 70 miles directly south of here, and that's where the landfall happened - Mexico Beach. That is a scene of utter devastation - you know, blocks and blocks wiped off, you know, from the earth. You know, there's no buildings in some places. The buildings that remain are totally ruined. The pictures you may have seen on TV or in newspapers - you know, it'll take your breath away. But I tell you what - if you see it in person, it's even worse. Now, up here in Marianna, houses are standing. They're damaged.

MERAJI: OK.

SULLIVAN: There's holes in the roofs. There's roofs that are missing. There are trees on top of roofs. The police chief just told me if you had a bicycle outside, that was damaged, too, during the storm. So here, it's much more property damage. I don't think any lives were lost here...

MERAJI: OK.

SULLIVAN: ...Yet. And, you know, wires are down. It's very dangerous to drive except in the brightest light at the middle of the day because you just can't see the wires or the trees until you're upon them.

MERAJI: How are the rescue efforts going?

SULLIVAN: There are a lot of first responders who have flooded into the panhandle. The roads, once they're cleared - which has been a problem for days now - you see trucks from everywhere in the country - Tennessee, Louisiana, all over Florida. You know, they've all flooded into the panhandle. Someone reported to me that they saw a New York City fire department truck - which I personally haven't seen, but, you know, that's quite possible. The National Guard is here and out in force. And the FEMA trucks are also rolling, you know, through the area, and they're going to set up feeding centers and places to file claims. And there's also a large number of churches or church-affiliated groups that have set up places where you can go to seek help.

MERAJI: What are the biggest challenges people are facing at the moment from what you can see?

SULLIVAN: Well, when I ask people if you could, you know, have one thing resolved, they said they would want either power or water because that's what you need to live a civilized life.

MERAJI: That's The Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan in Marianna, Fla.

Thanks so much, Patricia.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.