Between October 7 and October 16, 2018 hurricane Michael plowed through the Florida panhandle, ultimately killing 72 and causing approximately $25.1 Billion in damages. It was the fourth-strongest landfalling hurricane to hit the contiguous United States, and the strongest storm on record to hit the Florida panhandle.
And none of that information could have prepared me for what I saw four months later.
Cleanup is still underway. Huge trucks still throughout the countryside hauling debris and tree remnants away to who knows where? I saw mobile homes literally upside down; ceiling fans with light globes and blades still intact – but miles from any visible structure; acres and acres of pine trees that looked like a gigantic mythical “lawnmower” set at about 15-20 feet high just lopped them all off. At once it was magical to see how the people have banded together to help everyone and so sad to see the epic devastation from which the people and the landscape may never recover.
I was talking to a gentleman about what they will do in their area. Trees that have stood for decades and were lopped off have to be completely removed. Families who own the land on which they stood will receive subsidized farm equipment and seed to plant so that the soil will not become unusable wetlands. The scope of recovery efforts and how the people are being redefined is inconceivable to me. I truly cannot imagine waking up one morning and the weather determining what I and possibly my whole family would be doing for the rest of my life.
At just past Mossy Head (a small town that barely warranted a city limits sign) I crossed the 3,000 mile mark on this journey and had myself another little cry on the side of the road. It barely feels possible.
The people have been so kind. Much of my ride today was definitely rural, and everywhere I go people are encouraging and considerate. Some honk and wave, some will drive completely on the other side of the road while they wave. There is an occasional rude driver, but for the most part riding is a joy.
758 miles left.