A look back on Hurricane Michael

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The morning of October 10th began with something many Floridians are used to: wind and rain. But as the morning turned to afternoon, conditions worsened and warnings were issued.

"They've gone ahead and issued something you hardly ever see, an extreme wind warning and it's never happened for the panhandle. I'll tell you, an extreme wind warning only gets issued when the wind speeds are expected to be over 110 miles per hour," Meteorologist Ryan Michaels said on-air as the storm approached.

Some elected to leave. Others chose to ride the storm out as Michael made its way onshore.

"It has become unsafe to travel on our streets," Emergency Director Mark Bowen said in a press conference. "It has become unsafe to cross our bridges. People at this point have to do their best to take care of their own life safety."

Anchor Paris Janos was at Bay County's Emergency Operations Center as the storm approached. He told viewers, "Stay safe, please be safe where you are right now, there's no reason to get out on the roads, there's no reason to be out in anyway."

As the skies darkened and the wind and rain picked up, those in Bay, Franklin, Gulf, Jackson, and WJHG/WECP hunkered down.

With midday approaching and landfall imminent, a final warning from Chief Meteorologist Chris Smith, "What we can all do, I just want you to stay in your safe place, an interior hallway, a bathroom, a closet, treat this like it was a tornado warning and we were on the air telling you it was a tornado because this is going to be stronger than a lot of tornadoes and it's much more massive."

And then the station lost power. We continued our coverage using Facebook Live.

For the next few hours, residents across the panhandle held their loved ones and waited for the storm to pass.

"It seems like we've made it through the effects of Hurricane Michael," Journalist Jarell Baker told viewers as he and Journalist Blake Brannon emerged from the hotel in Panama City they were staying in. "I'm just gonna show you what we're looking at right now. It's pretty unbelievable right now."

The storm was gone but the damage was done. Hurricane Michael left an impact on homes, businesses, landmarks, roads, across city and county lines.

"Home again, home again, that's just a silly thing I do," Susan Seagraves, a Mexico Beach Resident said. "But it didn't resemble home in any form or fashion. There was absolutely nothing about it that looked like home."

As residents assessed the damage, many took stock in what matters the most.

"God has brought me through a dead husband, a dead son, and this storm and I am thankful," Eileen Lieupo, a Mexico Beach homeowner, said.

In the hours after the storm, recovery began. Thousands of linemen from across the country came down to lend their services and provide a spark of hope that lit the way home.

Residents air-lifted from areas too heavily damaged to get out on their own. Even a visit from elected officials and President Donald Trump himself as he assessed the damage done to Lynn Haven.

"Fifty years ago there was one that had this kind of power. Fifty years ago, that's a long time. But we're helping the people, and we will always help the people," President Trump said.

The work is not over. The recovery process will take years. Residents in the hardest hit areas are remaining hopeful.

"On a scale on one to ten, ten being the end of the world, it was an eight," Seagraves said. "It can always get worse."

In life there are constants, small things that remain the same that keep you grounded. You can count on the sun to rise and set in the same place every day. The tides will ebb and flow and the panhandle, much like the rallying cry it became, will always remain strong.