‘It’s just devastation': Florida city begins cleaning up Michael’s mess

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Marianna, the city of southern charm, saw Hurricane Michael pass directly through, leaving behind shredded bricks and a matted mess of tangled cables

Theres an unmistakable scent of barbecue and pine down Kelson Avenue in Marianna, Florida, and the faint hum and buzz of generators and chainsaws all around. On the corner, residents of an apartment complex have pooled the remaining meat in their fridge and freezers to cook.

Your food is gonna go bad so we might as well cook it, said Robert Hill. Plus it brings you closer as a community.

Marianna, the city of southern charm, saw Hurricane Michaels destructive eye wall pass directly overhead this week, lashing trees into kindling, tearing roofs and awnings, punching through signs and leaving the citys power grid a matted mess of tangled cable.

Its like a bomb hit, everywhere you look its just devastation, said Hill who, amid the muted celebratory feeling of the impromptu cookout, had an ominous warning. Today is the best day were going to have. Tomorrow is going to be rough, Hill said. We just used the food that was in the freezer, so tomorrow its not gonna be there. The stores not gonna be open and you wont be able to get cash out the ATM neither.

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Not a single store appeared to be open in the city on Thursday, with the downtown corridor of Lafayette Street utterly in tatters. On one corner, a brick building housing an Edward Jones financial office had its bricks shredded by Michael, in a heap on the pavement, with most of the second story obliterated. Multiple building faces had been ripped clear off, now resembling doll houses, and revealing floors bowed by Michaels destructive power.

The remains of a Confederate statue in Marianna, Florida, after Hurricane Michael. Photograph: Jamiles Lartey for the Guardian

Down the road, the Jackson county courthouse was a tangled mess with overturned benches and flattened historical marker signs. To the left of the entrance, Michael managed to do something that more often happens via protest, civil disobedience or political pressure it felled a memorial to Confederate soldiers, snapping it at its base.

Business owner Bugra Demirel recalled riding out the storm in his Brothers Beauty & Fashion store. I have not been scared this much in my life. This building started shaking like this, motioning his hands, and the sound of the wind he shook his head.

His newly built store was mostly unscathed but he watched as other businesses on the drag were decimated, like the piano tuning shop across the street. We saw the roof literally get sucked up and it just flew away, Demirel said.

Corporate stores they have contents insurance, building insurance theyll be fine, but these guys mom and pop stores Im just thinking about all of them right now. Even us, tomorrow we have to start calling the banks, suppliers theyre going to have to work with us.

The Mowrey Elevator company next to Brothers Beauty & Fashion. Photograph: Jamiles Larety for the Guardian

The main streets were cleared of debris first, but on Thursday residential neighborhoods remained largely impassable by car thanks to downed trees, or at least required a number of detours. Off Russ Street, the Bigale family let me accompany them to see their home for the first time since most of them evacuated to Birmingham, Alabama, on Wednesday morning. Allison and Bonnie Bigale almost simultaneously let out an Oh my God as they walked into their home and saw the missing piece of ceiling and the dried crusty deposits of drywall gypsum on the floor.

Allison Bigales husband Adam, a facilities manager at a nearby prison, had to work and was unable to evacuate. He had mostly cleaned up the damage by the time the rest of the family arrived. Bonnie sniffled as she walked into her room a sloppy mess of ceiling chunks was scattered all over her bed.

But you know what, Adam said, were all still here so it doesnt matter. All this is replaceable.

Thats a common attitude in Marianna. To me, when I got to see that house and its still standing, and all our valuables the things that cant be replaced are still there, dude, Im happy, said Jeffrey Register. Ive lived here 46 years and I had no idea it could be this bad.

Register said he and his family walked a couple of miles on Thursday morning over, under and through trees like a hike just to make sure we still had a house. His wife, Shalon, sells home insurance and said claims were already starting to trickle in. Its gonna be nonstop, she said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/12/hurricane-michael-marianna-florida-aftermath

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