On the morning of Wednesday, October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall between Mexico Beach and Panama City on the Florida Gulf Coast. Upon impact, it was a Category 4 storm, with top winds of over 150 miles per hour. Moving inland at 15 miles per hour, the main part of the storm reached our small town of Wewahitchka in about 90 minutes. Then, the massive storm churned over us for approximately 4 hours. The worst part of the storm was from 12:30 to 2:00 when the eye wall smashed forward on a northward path. At around 2:00 pm, the eye passed over giving us false hope it was finished. But a few minutes later the storm resumed, and inflicted additional damage until around 3:30 pm when it was finally gone from our town.
Over the next 24 hours, as we ventured out and about, we witnessed breathtaking destruction. Trees were down everywhere - over roads, over yards, in fields and forests, and sadly on top of hundreds of houses and buildings. By rough estimate, I would guess that nearly 50% of the trees in the community were either completely down, leaning into another tree, or badly damaged. These falling trees took down miles and miles of power lines. And for those structures that were missed by trees, the wind shear peeled off shingles, roofs, siding, awnings, porches, doors, and countless other parts of homes and buildings. Broken windows were everywhere.
The power went out at around 10:00 am on Wednesday. Current estimates are that it will take many weeks to repair the electrical grid. Cell phone service also went down on Wednesday. As of Friday morning when I left town, it was still out. I was able to make my way north towards Tallahassee. The trip was surreal. Miles and miles of downed trees, many of them crossing over the main north-south highway. Incoming first responders had cut the fallen trees to allow passage for a single lane of southbound traffic. As I was going northbound, I had to constantly weave in and out of the left lane to keep moving forward while avoiding the convoys of work trucks and emergency vehicles now moving into our area. Finally, I reached Interstate 10, which took me to Tallahassee. From there, I flew to Virginia, where I am currently writing this note.
Incredibly, the Smiley Honey building was nearly unscathed. While there were some large trees that came down near us, they fell parallel to the building, and thus we had no structural damage. Very little water entered the building in just a few places. The only item of note is that the winds picked up our AC unit, and flipped it upside down about 4 feet off the base. I suspect the unit is now broken. Otherwise, we were extremely fortunate from a property perspective.
But without electricity and the internet, we are out of business for a while. If we can get the internet back in the next few days, then we can resume shipping by running our computers with a generator -- assuming the local Post Office reopens soon, or UPS trucks resume operations out of Panama City.
We will let you know as soon as we have more information to share. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost so much more than we did.
-Brian Bertonneau, Owner