Devastation | Mexico Beach and Panama City, Florida

RV On The Run & Joe Leone Photography recently took a trip up to the Pan Handle.  We traveled nearly 400 miles to capture the perfect family photo session on Panama City Beach.  As we got closer to our destination, we got a quick lesson from mother nature.

On October 10, 2018 – Michael made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 km/h), at 12:30 CDT (17:30 UTC), between Mexico Beach, Florida, and Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida.  Our trip was 7.5 months later, and the destruction took us by surprise.  We were wondering what we might see. However, we were unprepared for what we saw.

As we traveled west on Florida-20, we began to see trees that were all bending and leaning to one direction.  Soon we would encounter trees that had snapped in half, this was not just one or two trees, but whole sections along the road.  The debris, still piled along the roadway from a storm most have forgotten about because the media has forgotten about them.  As we approached our destination, most of the homes all still have blue tarps on them to protect from missing sides, paneling, roofing, and windows that are missing.

The next morning we were lucky enough to take a drive toward Mexico Beach.  The route from Panama City to Mexico Beach was some of the worse destruction we had ever seen.  It is an eerie feeling to be driving by and witnessing the same damage you saw reporters looking and reporting on over seven months ago.  These cities are still covered in destruction and debris everywhere.  As we approached Tyndall Air Force Base, we could see the hangars which were destroyed from this Hurricane.  

We continued our drive east and arrived in Mexico Beach.  This area took the direct Category 5 hit.   Homes shifted off their foundation, many homes missing, and many destroyed.  There were lots of temporary housing with RV’s, now standing in the place of where their homes once stood.  Many businesses had suffered catastrophic loss and have never reopened.

Later that day, we were able to get a private tour of Tyndall Air Force Base and see some of the damage first hand.  There are no words to describe the emotions we felt as we toured these areas.

With the 2019 Hurricane season starting in just one more week, we stop to think, what would a city like this do that still hasn’t recovered from Storm season 2018?  We began to think more about our town and where we live.  Could we survive such a storm, what would be the impact on where we live?

It is one thing to see the devastation on air after the storm passes.  It is an entirely different thing to witness the continued damage these towns still face over seven months later.

As for RV On the Run and Joe Leone Photography, we will never stay put when advised to evacuate a Hurricane.  We will be loading up with what is essential that we can carry, protecting ourselves and our loved ones, and praying for what we leave behind — continued prayers to all the families that have been affected by Hurricane Michael.

Here is a link to the Tampa Bay Times which is a good read about what if Hurricane Michael had hit Tampa Bay.

Below are a few images captured from our visit. Mexico Beach and Panama City photos are first, followed by our private tour of Tyndall Air Force Base which are very limited due to security reasons.

Panama City and Mexico Beach, Florida

Tyndall Air Force Base