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Chipley Strives For Recovery

National guard membes smile near a canopy with ice. A University of Miami flag is hanging near them.
Regan McCarthy

Throughout the Panhandle members of the National Guard are hosting what are called “PODS” or points of distribution where those affected by Hurricane Michael can get food, water and ice. WFSU stopped by one location at the Possum Palace in Chipley, Florida.

A power line tied with yellow caution tape dips low over the turn off for the Possum Palace. A few trees are down and small bits of brush scatter the road, but a few yards ahead members of the National Guard have set up a supply drive-through in a space that usually serves as the community’s festival grounds and athletic field.

Sergeant First Class Servio Tiffer oversees this Pod.

Tiffer’s men load water, ice, even supplies—like diapers and formula into the cars of those in need. Tiffer worked a similar job following Hurricane Irma last year. This year, he says it seems to him the need is even greater.

“I think it’s just that the hurricane has a larger area that it covered and made a much bigger footprint. It really did. And there’s going to be a bigger need for soldiers in this area than there was in the keys because the keys is a set of islands so there’s a more limited space the hurricane damaged,” Tiffer says.

Tiffer’s POD is one of three in Washington County. He says its seen a steady stream of locals looking for help. But workers at a distribution site across town in the Chipley high school estimate more than a hundred people have stopped by on this day.

The high school POD is right next door to a shelter housed at the Chipley

"We stayed in a church. All the windows busted out the back. And all the trees come down. They landed right beside the church though."

middle school where a week after the storm families are still arriving.

“They’re coming like Panama and we’ve got one guy from Mexico Beach that’s lost everything," says Michelle Chestnut, a shelter resident.

Chestnut lives in Chippley and says her family came to the shelter because her husband depends on a breathing machine. There’s no power at her house and the roads are too blocked to get there anyway. But she says she is one of the lucky ones.

“We stayed in a church. All the windows busted out the back. And all the trees come down and landed right beside the church though. I have an aunt her house was destroyed. I have a brother in law his house was destroyed. That’s right here in Chipley and one is in Panama. We know a lot of people that lost their homes," Chestnut says.

A hopscotch game is drawn in chalk. Children play while adults talk.
Credit Regan McCarthy
WFSU Public Media
The Chipley middle school is serving as a shelter for families displaced by the storm.

Chestnut is hopeful she’ll move out of the risk shelter at the school and into a host shelter at a nearby church in the next few days. She says it’s hard to tell when she’ll be able to go home.

Those in need of supplies or a place to stay can find POD and shelter locations for their area by visiting floridadisaster.org/info.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy covers healthcare and government in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media.

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

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.