This is certainly not the weekly review I thought I’d be writing today when I signed off last week. Last week was all about dealing with our new MLS; this week it’s about dealing with our new reality. In the aftermath of a storm that lasted only a few hours, our area has been forever changed to measuring time as life before and life after Michael. Twenty-four years ago to the week on October 4, 1995, we endured a glancing blow from Hurricane Opal, a storm that made landfall between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph. That’s over 100 miles west of us and yet it did tremendous damage to the Cape, wiping out houses that were located at what is now known as (the rocks at) Stumphole. Yes, there used to be houses there. Let that sink in. Michael was a CAT 4, borderline CAT 5, packing 155 mph winds when it came ashore in Panama City, a mere 50 miles away.
I’m writing this from a motel room in Tallahassee where my husband and I and our two cats evacuated to on Tuesday. When we’ll be able to return home remains a question mark, I’m just thankful we have homeowners insurance in case something along these lines happened, if you know you live in a high-risk area for natural disasters or heavy weather conditions, you’ll want to make sure you look into home insurance too. We finally saw a blurry aerial of our home last night, Thursday night, and were relieved to see it’s still standing with the roof intact; we might not need a total roof replacement but some routine maintenance on the existing one might give us some peace of mind. It looks as if the porches may have been blown off and some siding damaged, but from what we can tell it looks imminently fixable. We’re still going to get a roof inspection done to make sure the damage isn’t too bad but overall we feel extremely fortunate. As the weather was so strong, it’s important to consider a roof inspection. Even though our roof seems fine, other people may need to consider booking an appointment with a roofing company if they live in an area that was hit particularly hard. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
In our age of instant communication, most of you have no doubt already seen the horrifyingly vivid footage and photos of the massive destruction in Mexico Beach, and severe damage to Port St. Joe. However, there have been far fewer images and information regarding Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, and the C-30 Corridor. Maybe because of that, I’ve heard from a lot of people planning on coming down as early as this weekend to check on their houses or offering to drive in with supplies. A friend with several rental homes said she is still receiving calls for reservations in the next week or two. It seems the magnitude of the damage to our beloved Cape area is not being made known, so I’m writing today to help provide apparently much-needed info on what the situation is, sources to keep up with updates from emergency forces, and photos clearly detailing the enormity of the damage to our infrastructure.
There is no way to sugar coat it: this is bad. Very bad. There is no power, water or sewer available in south Gulf County, with the exception of some limited water in Port St. Joe having come back online. Two houses burned down in town last night because there was no water for the fire company to put them out. About a mile of the road on the south end of the Cape through Stumphole and a bit northward is totally washed out. Destroyed. The rocks are flattened. Repairs to all of this will be made, but it will be a long process, not something completed in a week or two.
Please hold off on coming back unless you can be 100% self-sufficient for the duration of your stay by bringing a generator, gas, food and water. Also bring a mega first-aid kit as Sacred Heart has reopened to limited services only and both the major hospitals in Panama City remain closed, so the nearest medical care is in Tallahassee. Workers cannot get to your house on the north end of the Cape to help you with repairs, and you will not be able to run to Lowe’s or Home Depot for the supplies you need to do so. And again, you’ll need to supply your own power to run any power tools, and there will be no hot shower to enjoy after working all day, no ice to chill your food or beverages, no A/C to help you sleep comfortably. In short, you are not going to enjoy being here right now so it’s really best to be patient and let the emergency services get our infrastructure repaired to restore basic services to our homes.
Another reason for not returning yet is that manpower and resources are already stretched to the limit and the fewer people here, the less traffic here, the faster repairs can be completed to get us back up and running. I know it’s hard, but it really is in everybody’s interest to hold off on coming back for awhile.
Facebook has been the single greatest resource for real time sharing of links and updates, so if you’ve always been reluctant to go there, this event is reason enough to sign up to keep up with the latest developments as we rebuild. Three good examples are
If you haven’t had a chance to check out your property yet, go to this NOAA clip which will allow you to navigate all over the Cape, C-30, and Indian Pass to zoom in on your property. Another informative video is this one of a helicopter sweep from the state park to Stumphole.
Crews were out working on clearing the damaged section of road at Stumphole today so hopefully they’ll be able to get at least something temporary down to allow traffic in and out. If that happens, I’ll let you know. Please call or text me at 850-227-5197, or send an email to [email protected] .
Living through the aftermath of Opal on the Cape, what I remember most is seeing so many sad scenes everywhere you looked with no escaping them. Piles of peoples’ homes and dreams strewn on the side of the road for trash pick up. There was no water supply for nearly a month. Slowly, eventually, it eased, but it was a long process before Opal’s presence wasn’t foremost in our minds anymore.
We will get past Michael, we will rebound and rebuild, and we will emerge a better community on the other side, because the magical bond that brings us all here together as neighbors is not so much the sun or sand, it is the very special people who treasure and protect this gift that is the Forgotten Coast. Together we are #CapeSanBlasStrong .