Weeks After Hurricane Michael Panhandle Still Reeling

Mexico Beach was hit by a Category 4 hurricane on October 10th in the form of Hurricane Michael. While two weeks have passed, the impact of the storm is far from gone. Entire sections of the town were leveled, and hundreds of people have been displaced. The city thousands call home simply no longer exists as it did.

USA Today

Hurricane Michael Leaves Historic Destruction in its Wake

Simply surviving such a catastrophic storm is only the beginning for many Panhandle residents. Many parts of Mexico Beach along the coast have simply been flattened. There is little evidence in some areas that there were ever even buildings. Many residents are confused and ill-at-ease, as their neighborhoods and homes are simply gone.

It’s not hard to imagine such confusion: picture the city you call home, and the areas you frequent. Then, imagine that a natural disaster simply swept it all away. Every store, house and church you go to regularly is now just gone, swallowed up by the sea. The feelings of alienation, confusion and isolation some survivors are experiencing are nothing new, though.

Parallels to Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was similarly devastating for Southern Mississippi and New Orleans. In fact, the type of damage seen in Panama City is comparable in a number of ways to what happened to New Orleans in 2005. There, disaster relief efforts also included mental health counseling. Many survivors felt out of place and uncertain of how to rebuild in the aftermath of the storm.

Studies done in New Orleans five years after Katrina showed that there was a lasting mental effect on children. 37 percent of children whose families were affected by the storm showed signs of depression and anxiety. As such, recovery efforts for Florida will need to take mental health into account, not just simply rebuilding damaged structures.

After all, buildings and neighborhoods are important. They give us structure and something concrete to call home. However, the mental health of people affected by the storm must also be taken into account for any recovery effort to be completely successful.