On October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael crashed into the Florida Panhandle near Mexico Beach. The monster hurricane continued its destructive path northward, ravaging coastal and rural communities. International news outlets breathlessly reported on the immediate aftermath, but as time progressed attention waned and aid fell short. Which made us at The Marjorie wonder, who’s been left behind? What’s been overlooked?
This three-part series chronicles how the “the forgotten storm” hit rural Florida—and those lives, livelihoods, and lands that are still searching for resolution.
Twenty-one percent of Panama City residents live below the poverty line. Many rely on federal housing subsidies to help with rent, but funding for affordable housing programs is limited. Hurricane Michael exacerbated the housing shortage. After the storm, displaced hurricane survivors with little resources were left navigating federal aid options, searching for scarce homes all while trying to find a sense of normalcy.
Timber has sustained many Florida families for generations, and is a linchpin of rural Florida culture. The Florida Panhandle is home to some of the state’s most robust timberlands, but after Hurricane Michael leveled millions of acres of trees, many producers and workers were left to pick up the pieces and wonder if they are ready for this year’s hurricane season.
Take a look outside. What do you see? For residents of the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael, it was complete and utter devastation. Photos of leveled homes, smashed businesses, flooded streets and forests laid to waste made their way through news outlets, across social media, and in texts and emails to loved ones. But what was less obvious was how the destruction set the stage for a new landscape: a landscape defined by invasive species.