78ºF

Panhandle, still recovering from Michael, braces for another storm

Meanwhile, hurricane insured losses hit $6.65 billion

MARIANNA, Fla. – Wednesday marks nine months since of Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle and many are concerned about a system that is predicted to grow into a tropical storm and has the potential to produce heavy rainfall later this week.

Estimated insured losses from October’s Hurricane Michael have topped $6.65 billion, according to information posted on the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation website. As of a June 28 tally, 147,877 claims had been filed, with 21,669 claims, or about 14.7 percent, remaining open. The total estimated insured losses were $6,654,241,887.

The Category 5 Hurricane Michael caused devastating damage in parts of the Northwest Florida after making landfall in Mexico Beach. The largest number of insurance claims, 88,692, have been filed in Bay County, which includes the Panama City area.

At the start of July, a tarp was still covering part of Art Kimbrough’s Marianna home. The damage caused to his neighbor's roof had just been repaired the previous week.

Blocks away, the floor of Kimbrough’s downtown art store and office was covered in plastic.

“Every time it rains, water is coming in,” Kimbrough said. "We have buckets over here.”

Kimbrough estimates he’ll have to empty buckets every two or three hours if the tropical storm expected to form over Georgia produces the 3 to 5 inches of rain that has been forecasted.

“Water comes down the wall, we try to steer it into buckets and keep it from doing any more damage than it can,” Kimbrough said.

photo

Panhandle residents are still facing multiple roadblocks to recovery, one of which is settling with their insurance companies.

“Well, on our house, the initial claim came in at $27,000 and grew,” Kimbrough said. "On this building [the art store], initially it was $85,000. Now it’s $186,000.”

The largest number of insurance claims, 88,692, have been filed in Bay County, which includes the Panama City area. Bay County is followed by Jackson County, with 13,958 claims; Leon County, with 10,125 claims; Gulf County, with 8,256 claims; Gadsden County, with 6,206 claims; Calhoun County, with 4,069 claims; Washington County, with 3,551 claims; Franklin County, with 2,329 claims; Wakulla County, with 1,427 claims; Liberty County, with 1,174 claims and Holmes County, with 1,019 claims.

Even when a company settles, labor is in short supply, which is why nine months later, Kimbrough’s roof is still leaking.

“Because there’s no brick masons anywhere to be had. There’s a shortage of them to begin with. They have so much work to do in all the communities around here,” said Kimbrough.

Labor in high demand like bricklayers and roofers are commanding as much as 25% to 50% more than they were making before Michael hit the Panhandle. 

Given all the other struggles Panhandle residents have faced, the last thing they want is more rain.