Hurricane Michael: In the Midst of Chaos

Watching the video my husband shot coming up to our house following Hurricane Michael, I held my breath. I knew we would not escape the carnage, but I was unprepared for the destruction his camera revealed.

Living in the Midst of Complete Chaos

Chaos. Everywhere. Our neighborhood was hidden under tons of downed trees and debris. Our neighbors were walking around in shock, trying, as John was, to make sense of what they were seeing.

Our home in Panama City, FL in September of 2018, a few weeks prior to Hurricane Michael.

Trees once standing proud and straight were now broken and leafless on the ground, on homes and crushing carports and cars. Including mine. My 50th birthday present from John just the year before was buried underneath the large oak tree that once stood sentinel at the edge of our property next to our mailbox.

It had fallen into our newly built carport and come to rest sandwiched between the folds of the metal carport roof that had once provided shelter and protection. My car was buried under the massive oak. John’s video revealed the crushed roof, flattened tires and shattered windows of my Toyota 86. The good news? It had likely saved our family room and bay window by taking the brunt of the impact.

This photo was taken a few days after we returned home and had begun cleaning the debris. No power or water, but we had a roof over our heads. The days ahead would be long, but with grateful hearts, our neighborhood pulled together to help each other through.

The roof over the area was damaged and water had breached the interior room, soaking the wood floor and the music equipment John had not had time to relocate before we raced to shelter.

Other parts of our tin roof were peeled back like the skin of a banana and a hole had been torn into the area over John’s office soaking the carpet and destroying the ceiling and insulation above it.

Thankfully, the other large tree in our front yard, though leaning dangerously toward the house, had not yet fallen into the room between the two front bedrooms. Of the once eleven trees on our property, only one remained standing, though it’s branches and leaves were gone. It looked desolate standing there, a mere shadow of the beautiful tree it had once been.

John’s workshop bore the weight of another large tree across its roof. It would take digging through piles of debris to determine the extent of the damage.

Thankfully, the main parts of the house were intact and reparable, which was miraculous. Our girls and their guys had lost their house in Lynn Haven and would need a place to live while the rebuilding process was taking place. At least we could provide them with a safe place to lay their heads. There was little else we could do at the moment.

Moment to Moment

Rebuilding will be long and arduous for us all. We are reduced to bare essentials, but overall, so much luckier than so many others. The landscape within and surrounding Michael’s path will never be the same. We have our lives though, and both John’s and my families survived. That is the most important thing. The thing we are most grateful for as we stand in the middle of the carnage.

broken sunrise
As the sun rose one morning shortly after Hurricane Michael, I snapped this picture from our backyard. The bare trees standing tall against the rising light reminded me that nature has a way of healing and never questions whether the sun will rise, trusting its Creator to provide. A poignant reminder and lesson in the face of such life-altering destruction.

Having survived our youngest daughter’s battle with stage four cancer in 2016, our family was already close. This has brought us that much closer. We are survivors and we know without fail, that God is with us. We have seen and felt his presence countless times since that fateful Wednesday that changed everything.

The outpouring of support and assistance from people near and far is tremendous and heartwarming. Neighbors helping neighbors, strangers reaching across the destruction to comfort and assist. That is the calm in the eye of this storm. The unmistakable and steadfast presence of God is witnessed and felt in each act of kindness, no matter how great or small.

My hometown and this region are resilient. We will make it through the aftermath and with God’s guidance and mercy, we will come through stronger and more grateful for the little things. Like the sun rising and setting in splendor each day against the stark landscape that remains. Being able to look up at night to see a blanket of stars and the bright moon clearer now without the city lights obstructing our view. Nothing will be taken for granted.

That is the beauty appreciated in the middle of this heartbreaking chaos. That is the miracle that provides the hope we all need to prevail and overcome. May God continue to strengthen and guide us.

Next Installment: Finding Time to Worship After the Storm