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Help Still Needed in Areas Hit Hardest by Hurricane Michael

Many Panama City area residents displaced after Hurricane Michael are still living in tents. (Steve Lowe)
Many Panama City area residents displaced after Hurricane Michael are still living in tents. (Steve Lowe)
December 10, 2018

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Today is the deadline for many displaced Panama City residents living in tents behind Forest Park Methodist Church to leave, by an order from the city. And one observer says that will leave them to fend for themselves.

The city didn't allow tent camping, but made exceptions for workers and others after Hurricane Michael. The church initially set the December 10 deadline, and Mayor Greg Brudnicki said they will enforce it.

Flagler County resident Steve Lowe has made several trips to Panama City in his camper since the storm. On his own, he's brought supplies and used social media to get friends to chip in. Lowe said he's seen little help from the city for the homeless.

"Nobody is giving any information out from the government about where they could go,” Lowe said. “The local government is not trying to help them - they're not trying to find a place for them to move, they are not trying to transport them somewhere, they're not finding a place for them to go. They're just saying, 'You've got to get out.'"

Lowe said he's been trying to get organizations like the ACLU to halt today's evictions, but now hopes other people will step up to assist those in need. He said he isn't sure where many will go, since shelters in the area are full.

Lowe described the situation on the ground as unlike anything he's seen before.

"I'm a native Floridian; I was in Miami two days after Andrew. The damage here is worse than Andrew. It is the worse thing I have ever seen,” he said. “I mean, I've lived here for 64 years. And I mean, they are getting things done but it's very, very slow."

One of the hospitals, Bay Medical Sacred Heart, has said it will lay off 800 employees - nearly half its staff - due to the serious damage it suffered from Hurricane Michael. About 80 percent of buildings in Bay County were destroyed or severely damaged in the storm and nearly 4,000 of the county’s students are considered homeless.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL