'Our lives are gone here.' Michael leaves behind untold years of misery

Linda Clarke gasped when she returned to what was once their stately beach house -- before ...

Posted: Oct 12, 2018 2:46 PM
Updated: Oct 12, 2018 2:46 PM

Linda Clarke gasped when she returned to what was once their stately beach house -- before Hurricane Michael turned it into heaps of wood and metal.

"Oooooh wow, our new house," she said, her voice shaking. Her husband, Raoul, walked past her.

Accidents, disasters and safety

Air pollution

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Climate change

Continents and regions

Energy and environment

Energy and utilities

Environment and natural resources

Florida

Greenhouse gases

Hurricane Michael

Hurricanes

Natural disasters

North America

North Carolina

Pollution

Severe weather

Southeastern United States

The Americas

Tropical storms

United States

Weather

Georgia

Beaches

Coastal areas

Destinations and attractions

Landforms and ecosystems

Latin America

Mexico

Points of interest

Floods and flooding

Central America

Panama

Panama City

"Raoul. It's just stuff. It's just stuff," Clarke said repeatedly as she eyed the destruction around her. "It's just stuff. We can replace."

A few days ago, they were living in their dream home at Shell Point Beach. After Michael blew ashore Wednesday, the house lay in crumbled blocks, with the lower level filled with chunks of concrete and a lime green boat tossed near the stairs. What a 9-foot storm surge didn't crash into, the 155-mph winds wiped out.

'I just don't know what to do'

Across the Florida Panhandle, shell-shocked residents returned home to devastation after Michael's fury, with similar scenes played out in several neighborhoods.

Debra Murphy looked at the debris in her home in Shell Point Beach, where she raised her three daughters .

"I'm just still in shock. ... I can't think anymore because I just don't know what to do," she told CNN's Gary Tuchman, breaking down in tears.

Michael careened across the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall Wednesday as a monster Category 4 storm, killing at least 13 people and swallowing towns and marinas in its path.

Victims included an 11-year-old girl killed in Seminole County, Georgia, when a metal carport crashed through a roof, hitting her head. One man, Steven Sweet, died when a tree fell on a home near Greensboro, Florida.

Michael lingered for two hours when it slammed into the Florida Panhandle, the strongest storm in the continental United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Meteorologists had warned for days that Michael was a beast. But its rapid intensification over the Gulf's warm waters hours before landfall and its fury inland caught many by surprise, CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

'At this point, there's really no making sense'

In Panama City, home to about 38,000 people, Michael's fury was evident, with trees snapped in half and roofs ripped off buildings.

David Sebastian rode out the storm and barely made it out alive.

The hurricane peeled off the roof of his townhouse and blew out the windows, sending water pouring in. With trees down, and power and cell service out, he could not safely evacuate. He spent the night with his roommate and five dogs, surrounded by water.

"We had to stay in the house in 2 inches of water," he said Thursday.

Schools were not spared, either. Jinks Middle School had welcomed children displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year. The Panama City school was torn apart by Michael, and Principal Britt Smith choked up as he looked at the decimated building.

"Resiliency is important, and it's an important life message that we all have to learn," Smith said. "But at this point, there's really no making sense. It's just how do we get together, how do we recover?"

Standing in what was once the parish hall of St. Dominic Catholic Church in Panama City, the Rev. Luke Farabaugh spoke of the importance of having gratitude amid the devastation.

"Things, we can replace," he said. "We've seen a lot of signs of hope. I've been telling people ... to have hope."

'There's nothing left here anymore'

What were once towns with white sandy beaches are deserted and strewn with debris.

In Mexico Beach, ground zero of the devastation, receding floodwaters revealed what looked like an apocalyptic mess.

Scott Boutwell tearfully described how his walls collapsed and someone else's furniture swept into his house. The only thing that belonged to him in his home was a briefcase.

"I came here and walked inside ... and there's somebody's else's couch inside. It's not even mine. That's not even my recliner," he told CNN's Brooke Baldwin.

As Boutwell spoke, high-pitched fire alarms beeped continuously in the rubble -- a constant reminder of warnings that came long after the danger hit.

"Our lives are gone here. All the stores, all the restaurants, everything," he said. "There's nothing left here anymore."

Mexico Beach is cut off from the rest of the state, with roads blocked by debris and cell phone service mostly out. Neighbors struggled to find their homes on streets with piles of wood where houses once stood.

"I can't describe it, It's just terrible," Sherri said about the unrecognizable street. "There are so many memories here."

Another neighbor used Baldwin's phone to call her daughter.

"Hallie, it's mama, I'm OK, I'm OK," she said. "It was a lot rougher than we thought, how are you guys? I love you, too."

By Friday morning, cell service was slowly returning to the area.

West Lafayette
Scattered Clouds
57° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 57°
Kokomo
Few Clouds
56° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 56°
Rensselaer
Scattered Clouds
52° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 52°
Fowler
Scattered Clouds
52° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 52°
Williamsport
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 55°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
53° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 53°
Frankfort
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 57°
Delphi
Overcast
53° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 53°
Monticello
Overcast
53° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 53°
Logansport
Broken Clouds
55° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 55°
Near Record Heat On The Way
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 150664

Reported Deaths: 4008
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24697784
Lake13220352
St. Joseph8877159
Elkhart8469132
Allen7880222
Hamilton5962113
Vanderburgh559360
Tippecanoe354714
Monroe320738
Hendricks3183130
Johnson2995128
Porter297848
Clark285461
Delaware282074
Vigo252637
Madison229593
Cass222021
LaPorte215557
Warrick188464
Kosciusko176823
Floyd174867
Howard158866
Bartholomew139758
Dubois135125
Marshall132526
Henry122628
Grant120939
Wayne119327
Boone118848
Hancock114145
Noble113533
Jackson108713
Morgan92240
Dearborn91628
Daviess84033
Gibson83411
Clinton81616
Shelby79429
Lawrence78534
LaGrange76715
Harrison74024
Putnam71016
Knox70310
DeKalb69411
Posey6796
Steuben6008
Fayette58517
Miami5845
Montgomery57222
White56815
Jasper5624
Greene51837
Scott50813
Decatur49839
Adams4725
Clay4346
Whitley4316
Sullivan42812
Ripley4228
Wells4155
Starke3937
Wabash3919
Orange38725
Huntington3785
Spencer3706
Franklin36525
Jennings36013
Washington3592
Randolph3398
Fulton3362
Jefferson3305
Pike31913
Carroll31413
Perry29514
Jay2876
Fountain2863
Tipton26823
Parke2203
Newton21811
Vermillion2181
Rush2044
Owen2021
Martin1950
Blackford1923
Crawford1491
Pulaski1471
Brown1303
Ohio1227
Benton1070
Union1040
Switzerland890
Warren751
Unassigned0233

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events