PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WTOK) - One year ago this week a strong Category five hurricane struck the Florida panhandle.
Newscenter 11 was right there witnessing all of the preparations underway the day before the massive storm was set to arrive. Mandatory evacuations were put in place for all of the residents in the area.
Local deputies making the rounds and warning people they should leave.
The night before the storm, nature showed off her beauty with a golden-orange sunset over the choppy, shimmering waters of the Gulf of Mexico. That would be the calm before the storm.
After Michael departed, it left behind a wealth of destruction. Some houses gone and apartment buildings ripped apart.
“I was sitting on that couch. My mom was sitting on that couch and then the roof just burst out,” Kierra Muse told Newscenter 11’s Tom Williams one year ago.
Kierra Muse was lucky to have survived the storm. The roof over her head was ripped off and the walls fell.
Now, one year later, there is still a struggle, but a lot of progress has been made. Jane Smith is one of many people that are living in campers.
“I think one of the hardest parts was when they were tearing down the house and I was sitting down the end of the street watching and there I saw the big claw come in and there was my wedding gown and my veil flopping in the wind," Smith says.
Funding and federal help has been slow. Many feel like they have been forgotten. Gov. Ron Desantis recently visited Mexico Beach. He announced help through a grant $25 million.
"We knew some of the local services were in jeopardy. And so we saw an opportunity to support the Mexico Beach Fire Department, as well as the police, some law enforcement operations," Desantis says.
One major step forward for Mexico Beach, the hardest hit area along the panhandle, is the reopening of U.S. Highway 98. It reopened October 1st.
There is a strong bond among those in Panama City. Even moments after the storm people were looking to the future and thanking God they survived.
“We can recover the house. We can cut the trees down and start all over. That’s fine,” David Gray said just after the storm.