What follows below is helicopter footage of Mexico Beach, Florida, just southeast of Panama City Beach, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael scoring a direct hit on the tiny seaside community of what was 1,190 people.
That population is likely going to decline quite a bit for the time being. Mexico Beach, which was subjected to Category 4 winds of up to 155 mph and what was reportedly a nine-foot storm surge, barely has a building left intact after incurring Michael’s wrath.
Mexico Beach, Florida, is not just destroyed. For the most part, it’s not there anymore.
From a helicopter, you can see that many of the homes and hotels that populated this beachside town of about 1,200 are gone. A few houses and other structures remain standing, but they’re the exceptions.
Hurricane Michael’s wind and storm surge ripped up buildings like posies and carried them inland. Where homes once stood, offering premium views of the Gulf of Mexico, a few boards lay scattered across foundations.
While many cities along the Florida Panhandle enjoy the protection of various channel, barrier and tied islands, which can help stifle the impact of storm surge on the mainland, Mexico Beach sits between Crooked Island and the St. Joseph Peninsula, directly on the water.
“As you go east of Panama City, that’s where that wall of water on the eastern side of the eye wall is,” Sen. Bill Nelson said. “You are going to see a lot of destruction when the rescue crews get into Mexico Beach. … That’s where you’re going to see the extreme, extreme devastation.”
Patricia Mulligan said she survived Hurricane Andrew in 1992, only to encounter the wrath of another storm Wednesday.
Mulligan and her family rode out Hurricane Michael in their Mexico Beach condo. She said she moved to the popular seaside destination, about 20 miles east of Panama City Beach, less than three months ago.
As the Category 4 storm’s center crossed nearby, Mulligan said, her concrete complex shook and vibrated against sustained winds of around 155 mph. Water seeped into her fourth-floor apartment.
When she dared to look outside, water was grazing the fronds of tall palm trees on the beach. Homes were swallowed in storm surge. Soon enough, Mexico Beach’s emerald waters and sugar-sand beaches were covered in a dark sea of debris, she said.
Mexico Beach will recover. That’s assured. The beach there is too pretty not to. But the recovery is going to make the place look much different than it was before Michael came through. Those cottages will be replaced with high-rise condos, because it’s a high-rise condominium which can survive the kind of wind and water a major hurricane brings – and the insurance industry is going to be loath to underwrite coverage for a house which can be a total loss in a storm like Michael.
Real estate developers will descend on Mexico Beach soon with checks in hand. That will make for an interesting, if painful, next few years. For now, at least we can be thankful the loss of life was minimal from such a monster storm.