BLOUNTSTOWN, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Thursday marks the first anniversary of Hurricane Michael’s landfall in the Florida Panhandle.
We revisited the small city of Blountstown on the eve of the anniversary to speak with residents and city officials about how recovery has progressed so far.
Michael became the worst disaster to strike Blountstown on October 10, 2018.
City Manager Traci Hall remembers the storm vividly.
“We watched roofs come off of local businesses out the windows. We watched the steeple blow off the Methodist church,” said Hall.
Local business owners Edwin and Lynn Strawn rode out the hurricane in their home.
“Watching the trees fall... we just couldn't believe it,” said Edwin.
Hours later the devastation was obvious.
“We could not see down the street in any direction,” Edwin said.
But the storm united the city under a single cause.
“You know, everybody in this community helped everybody in this community,” said Lynn.
While the initial outpouring of support was great, a year later scenes of rotting tarps of homes are all too common. It’s a constant reminder that recovery over the last year has been slow.
Many structures were uninsured. For others, claims have been slow to process.
“You can drive anywhere and see blue tarps, tarps that are coming off of houses, houses that have not been repaired,” said Lynn.
For the city, federal aid has also been slow.
“We've spent over $13 million on this storm and are waiting on reimbursement,” said Hall.
Despite the hardships, the people of Blountstown remain optimistic.
“This community is wonderful, resilient, very supportive and I know together we can make this happen,” said Hall.
On the anniversary the city will gather for an evening of prayer. They expect a big crowd; a testament to the resilience of this community.