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After Michael Recovery In Marianna Is Just Beginning

A pile of ruble with a hurricane evacuation route sign kocked over on top.
Regan McCarthy

Hurricane Michael hit Jackson County, Florida harder than many residents expected. The storm tore roofs from buildings, ripped businesses in half and left thousands without power. Days after the storm, community members are clearing the rubble and looking for a way forward.

Jared Bran is sweeping up bits of debris in a Wal-Mart parking lot. He’s leading a crew subcontracted by the city to try to help businesses open after the storm.

“It’s just a nightmare out here. We’re doing everything we can, helping everybody we can,” Bran says.

Across the parking lot a generator hums. It’s powering a mobile pharmacy where residents whose medicine was lost or damaged during the storm are hoping to get refills.

A blue trailer serves as a mobile pharmacy. A blue sign points to the pharmacy entrance.
Credit Regan McCarthy
Residents are waiting to talk with a pharmacist in a mobile unit set up outside a damaged Wal-mart.

The store suffered serious damage during the storm and it's closed for now, but manager Mickey Gilmore hopes to reopen soon.

“Everything that was in the pharmacy was taken out and disposed of—everything. Just like all our food. We stripped everything except for canned goods. We sanitized everything and then we turned around and brought in fresh product. We will not bring in anything that could cause contamination,” Gilmore says.

Gilmore says the storm knocked the store’s air conditioning units out of place, and broke several skylights-- letting rain get in the building and causing a flood. Now Wal-mart workers who can are helping clean the store back up. Gilmore says he’s glad to be able to offer them a place to go, and a paycheck.

“We’re getting some coming in because it gives them the stability of life. Plus we’ve got air. They don’t have anything. I’ve got an assistant manager we call M.J. He lost his whole house. But he’s in here smiling. He’s glad he has a job he can recover from. A lot of associates do say it gives them a little comfort," Gilmore says.

"There are people bathing in the creek--no water in the house--getting water to flush their toilets, washing dishes in the creek."

Meanwhile at a nearby Lowes, customers are filling carts with cases of water and cleaning supplies. While the store is still running on generator on this day, workers from around the country traveled to Marianna to help the store open its doors.  

Mark Cannon and his mom Audrey are shopping for a generator. They live in a more rural area of the county where many people use well water. But without power, their water pumps aren’t working.

“There are people bathing in the creek. No water in the house. Getting water to flush their toilets. Washing dishes in the creek,” Cannon says.

Officials are continuing search and rescue efforts, with the goal of visiting every home in the county. But they’re also turning their attention to reopening schools and getting businesses back up and running in an effort to help the community return to what many say will be a “new normal."

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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