72 hours after Hurricane Michael ripped into the Florida Panhandle, southern Georgia and the Carolinas, once again Brock Long and FEMA are nowhere to be found as residents are without food, water, shelter, and power for the foreseeable future.
Hurricane Michael’s sudden transformation into a storm that is unprecedented for the Florida Panhandle haunts everyone who lived through it. “It was raw power,” says Panama City resident Walter McAlster, “you felt you were in it, not outside and didn’t know if you would live through it. You knew that everything was going to change the landscape forever.”
And it did, in the span of three hours.
The destruction is everywhere, at every corner for as far as the eye can see. Mexico Beach, where the hurricane’s eyewall slammed into Florida with 140 mph winds, is flattened. Panama City, gem of the Emerald Coast, looks like a bomb had been dropped on it. Is now a desolate landscape of countless toppled power poles, transformers, electical lines, severed trees, and metal roofings, twisted and tangled into a sea of debris covering every road. Nearly all homes, businesses, stores, banks, schools are severely damaged or destroyed, skeletal remains with blown out windows or crushed facades. To residents, it is unrecognizable.
There is so much rubble that the official death toll of 14 is expected to rise as search-and-rescue teams inspect thousands of buildings, looking for the the missing. On Friday, a team from the Miami Fire Department found a body in a Mexico Beach home.
The flood of debris has rendered most roads and streets virtually impassible for evacuees and first responders. Electric poles bent at 90 degrees and power lines strewn like spaghetti cover most lanes. Nearly all transformers were destroyed. Vehicles dodge trees that look like they were split like toothpicks or pulled up from the ground as if by giants.
Driving across the Apalachicola National Forest reserve that borders the coast was like touring a cemetery: endless rows of decapitated trees, leaning perfectly aligned like fallen prisoners who had been executed. Thirty-foot tall electrical poles split in half, their power lines strewn across the macadam. It went on like this for 60 miles.
Since the storm, there’s been no electricity and no water in Panama City. Emergency disaster relief was yet to be seen in strength as of Saturday morning and residents are growing more frustrated and desperate by the day.
Chantell Goolspy sat in her car making phone calls to get help. Goolspy and many of her neighbors live in a public housing area in downtown Panama City that was badly devastated.
“We’re in need of food, water, anything, we’re not getting any help. The whole street needs help,” Goolspy told the Red Cross. “FEMA referred me to you. That person told me to call 211.”
Down the street, Barbara Sanders stood outside her daughter’s unit where she had come to stay during the hurricane.
“We’re not getting any help,” she said. “We need food. It’s just crazy.”
Sanders said not a single relief agency had come by to check on them. Only the police had come and it was to tell everyone to leave. “They told us there’s nothing they can do and it’s gonna take a long time to rebuild,” Sanders said.
The greatest country in the world got caught flatfooted on the response to yet another hurricane, and people are somehow surprised. Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to stump for Republicans in the Midwest, telling everyone how great he is, while hundreds of thousands are suffering across the Southeast.
Just another reminder that Trump and the GOP don't particularly care, and never did. You're on your own, Florida.