Eight months after Hurricane Michael slammed Florida’s panhandle, hurricane season has begun and it’s raising concerns for many people who are still struggling to recover.
Amanda Taylor stayed in Bay County last fall with her eight children as Hurricane Michael ravaged the area--damaging her home and vehicle. Now she says even the thought of another hurricane leaves her unsettled.
"Just the mention of a hurricane the fact that they’re already named is sending some of us into oh my gosh you know, we’re freaking out. We want to shield our children,” Taylor says.
Residents expected Michael to hit the coast, but the storm strengthened and moved inland causing major damage and spreading to Georgia.
Taylor says it feels like she and her neighbors were forgotten shortly after the hurricane. But she says they still need help with recovery.
“We will never be the same people we were before the hurricane," Taylor says. "The biggest impact of it all is knowing we were forgotten. As soon as the news coverage was over, we were forgotten."
Bay County Communications Director Valerie Sale says many people are still rebuilding their homes. Some are considered homeless.
“This was a Category 5 storm so there was a significant amount of damage. There are lots of folks who are still working with their insurance company, battling with their insurance company, to try and get their houses rebuilt. So no it’s still a challenge that’s ongoing," Sale says.
If another storm hits the area this hurricane season, officials hope people will be more willing to evacuate.
“There’s going to be a significantly different reaction probably from people than there had been from peopl last October. So we are anticipating that a lot more people will evacuate this time around, so, you know, we will certainly be calling for evacuations early if necessary to ensure there is adequate space on the road,” Sale says.
Taylor says her her family will take those warnings seriously.
“If it says evacuate. I’m out, I am out. I lost my mother in February at 57 years old and I will forever believe it was Michael, is the reason I lost my mom. She couldn’t breathe after," she says.
Meanwhile Tallahassee’s Chief Resilience Officer Abena Ojetayo, says it's vital to have a working plan before disaster strikes. She says resources are available for those who need help--especially for people still in recovery mode.
“2-1-1 is an organization that connects individuals with a host of human services across the big bend area. With just that simple number 2-1-1 they can help you access your situation and connect you with the right resources right over the phone. But they are also a suicide hotline and they have counselors available," Ojetayo says.
She adds it's important to keep mental health in mind as people prepare for the possability of another storm.
“Part of the preparedness is also checking in on yourself, checking in on family members, asking how are you doing, and how can we connect with resources that can help our mental health as well. Those things are critical preparing before the disaster.” she says.
For Taylor, support from her community has been a vital part of her family’s recovery.
“The community was amazing, nothing short of God sent," Taylor says. "We didn’t have, you know enough basic items to get us through the three weeks that we were without power."
Andrea became a storm before the season’s official start date. But experts are forecasting a “normal” Hurricane season this year. According to the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School this is the fifth consecutive year for a named storm before the official start of the season.