In the weeks following Hurricane Michael’s landfall in Florida’s Gulf coast, there has been a swirl of misinformation and uncertainty surrounding the condition of much of the devastated area. Officials have been making administrative decisions since the storm, and there are several updates from Panama City and Mexico Beach.
Mexico Beach officials have begun to institute traffic checkpoints at every entrance to the city in order to cut down on road congestion. With fewer people on the road, there will be more room for utility companies to help expedite power restoration. According to Mexico Beach Public Information Officer, April Salter, only residents with “proof of identification, [who are] property owners, insurance adjusters, city contractors, approved volunteer teams and charities and recovery officials” will be allowed within city limits.
In the efforts to restore phone service, Verizon has promised to commit $25 million toward wireless infrastructure and to institute a new 5G service to Panama City. In a statement from Verizon, spokeswoman Kate Jay said, “This is about helping Panama City rebuild better than ever.” Verizon has received some criticism for being the slowest of many carriers to repair Internet and cell phone networks to the area, so this new 5G rollout will make up for the delays and will make Panama City one of only five other cities in the nation to have access to the ultrafast service speeds. There are no details, however, for how or when the network will be functional.
Tyndall Air Force base was hit hard and is now facing millions of dollars in damages. The base is responsible for managing air defenses of the United States and employs nearly 1,000 people. It is currently non-functioning after devastating damage by the storm. Vice President Mike Pence visited the base and pledged, “We will rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base.” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has stated that other operation centers are stepping in to take over responsibilities and that there are plans to reopen by Jan. 1, 2019.
Florida State University’s Panama City campus has been closed for several weeks following the storm and facing large amounts of damage. However, the school announced that there are tentative plans to reopen and resume classes on Monday, Oct. 29. Progress has been made in repairing damage and power has been restored to all buildings on campus. Florida State has established a hotline number for FSU Panama City students so they can ask questions regarding “classes, advising, course drop or other matters.” That hotline number is (850) 644-0146.
“Repairing and reopening the Panama City campus is a critical step,” said President John Thrasher. “But the toughest part is, and will continue to be, helping the members of our FSU family impacted by the storm get back to life as normal. For a great number of our students and employees, especially those in Panama City and the surrounding areas, life as normal is still a long way off. We’re doing everything we can to help them get back to what will inevitably be a new normal.”
The residents of Panama City are being urged by mayor Greg Brudnicki to register for FEMA aid now that the area has been declared “100 percent devastated.” “We urge residents — owners and renters — to register if they had damage,” FEMA spokesman Tom Kempton said. “Even if they have insurance. Sometimes your insurance doesn’t cover all your needs and expenses and FEMA may be able to fill some of those gaps.” Though many of FEMA’s points of distribution are now phasing out the distribution of ice, bulk food and water. There will still be hot meals served for another week before completely closing.
There are still many new developments to come from the Gulf Coast area in the weeks and months following Hurricane Michael. More updates will arise as they become available, so if you know of anyone in the Gulf Coast area, stay tuned to local news outlets for the most up-to-date information.