By: David Adams
Editor's Note: This is part of a series a first-hand stories from students in ENC2135. For more stories, visit the Hurricane Michael relief page.
October ninth was the most horrific night that I have ever experienced. Numerous thoughts were going through my mind that night. I was in complete panic mode thinking about my future and if I would have one. The phrase “the calm before the storm” didn’t describe how I was feeling inside but was an accurate description of my surroundings. Walking outside was like walking through the aftermath of a purge.
Unlike a normal night in Mowat Highlands, there was no one to be seen walking their dogs and no animals roaming the streets. The Weather Channel was making a bad night even worse. Hearing the hourly updates on Hurricane Michael was nothing short of frightening. The giant storm increased from a category two to a category three in just eight hours and its path of destruction had not changed.
With my parents out of town, and my sister and I the only ones at home, it was a sleepless night. Earlier that evening, I recall having a momentous conversation with two of my best friends. This was a very strange moment for me, especially since my friends and I are never serious with each other. This conversation was surreal—discussing if we were going to live to see each other again was nothing I ever imagined discussing with some of my best friends. As I laid in bed, the darkness of the night and the vastness of a category four storm ripping through my city filled my mind. After a long and sleepless night, the next day rolled in through the black night.
October tenth brought the most mayhem and destruction that I have experienced. It was about six o’clock in the morning when my sister barged into my room with my parents on the phone. She said, “Pack your bags Dave, we are evacuating.” This is not something anyone would want to wake up to. As most parents would be, mine were freaking out—they simply did not know the safest thing for my sister and me to do. My parents suggested calling the police department to see if the roads were even safe to travel on before heading out of the neighborhood. Sure enough, the police department said the roads were not safe to travel on. It had been raining all night, so they were already starting to flood. After my parents hung up the phone, my sister and I looked at each other with pure shock, not knowing how this day was going to pan out.
I slept a solid four hours and now I was wide awake. Turning on the Weather Channel was a terrible idea. Seeing this monstrous storm aimed toward my hometown was petrifying. It was like the darkness had followed me into the day making the day even more intense. Many are critical of the Weather Channel and the way they broadcast their reports. Many instances it seems as if they intentionally try to frighten people more than they need to. It seems like they exaggerate storm conditions. Hurricane Michael was no exaggeration.
When they told residents of Bay County to evacuate, they meant it. It took the brunt of the storm to hit for me to realize its intensity and how I should have evacuated. The longest morning I have experienced consisted of eating a huge breakfast and watching the Weather Channel. I figured that I would not be eating much in the next couple of weeks if the storm made a direct hit. It was about ten o’clock when the rain started to come down fairly hard. Just a few minutes past ten o’clock the power started to flicker. After about 7, the power flickers and the power finally went out. The last update I remember seeing from the Weather Channel was a category four hurricane with a pressure of nine hundred and thirty-seven millibars. They also said that Hurricane Michael had sustained wind speeds of about one hundred and forty miles per hour. Hearing these updates gave me a sick feeling that was like no other. With the power out there was nothing to do but sit on the couch and listen to the radio. Two and a half hours passed and the weather conditions started to worsen. It was twelve forty-five when the rain and wind picked up to an extreme — the western eye of the storm was closing in on Lynn Haven.
I regret staying and experiencing this moment — it is simply too hard to correctly describe this experience to someone. I remember moving from the couch and into the hallway at about one o’clock with my sister which was the smartest decision I have ever made. The storm started pounding my dark house. It sounded like a complete warzone with gunshots going off every second, pinecones pounding my roof and pieces of metal flying everywhere. Even though the windows were boarded up, I was still able to peek out a crack and see the intensity of the storm. At one point the entire house was shaking like an earthquake. In another instance, I saw a fifty-foot tree in my backyard completely bend in half. I felt hopeless in this moment; I felt like I was living my last moments. There was nothing for me and my sister to do except pray and ask God to spare our lives. Ironically, I received three calls during the storm: one from my mom, one from my best friend, and one from my brother in law. These calls meant so much to me because I was able to tell all of them that I loved them since I did not know when I would be able to see them again. The house was shaking so much that the picture frames were falling off the walls. My sister and I had to lay in the hallway with pillows and blankets over our heads to protect us from any glass shards or picture frames hitting us. The next hour went by very slow; it was like watching a soccer game on TV. It was so loud inside my house that my sister and I couldn’t have a normal conversation; we had to practically scream in order to communicate. After hearing a constant dripping sound, I got up to check and see where it was coming from. As I walked around my pitch-black home, I discovered multiple leaks in various rooms and ceilings caving in. The garage was making a loud racket like the door was coming off the track. It finally crashed into one of our cars. As I opened the interior door, the pressure was so extreme it blew the door open. I discovered half of the garage ceiling on top of the car with water pouring over my dad’s work bench. After about another hour, the outer wall of the storm had passed and I was able to walk outside to see complete mayhem — it was like a bomb went off and destroyed everything. When I walked outside it seemed like a block party because everyone was outside scoping the destruction. Many were in complete shock and others were completely distraught—it was a complete mess. As I waded through six inches of water I noticed not only a tree on top of my car, but I also discovered half of my street caved in. The destruction that occurred on October tenth was completely indescribable.
Hurricane Michael was an eye-opening storm for those of us that did not evacuate, and I thank God each and every day for sparing my life. This storm was a coming-of-age experience for me—the next storm we have, I will definitely be evacuating. In the past, numerous storms were predicted to make landfall in Panama City, but they never did. Many people thought Hurricane Michael was going to make a hard turn and miss Panama City which was a reason many did not evacuate. Since this storm completely obliterated Bay County and surrounding counties, it might serve as a warning regarding future hurricanes.
Hurricane Michael was a complete beast, causing billions in damage and killing many. This isn’t time to sit back and mourn the loss, it is time to rebuild and become an even better city. The following Sunday after the Hurricane my church held a short service in the parking garage, and my Pastor said something that has stuck with me since. He said that this storm can either bring the good or bad out of someone. This Hurricane experience is a coming of age moment not only for myself, but for the entire city.