Thousands of Floridians could be without electricity 'for weeks' after Hurricane Michael

When Hurricane Michael smashed into the Florida Panhandle last week, the deadly storm wreaked havoc on some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the state. Almost half a million Floridians were left without power, and thousands without proper shelter and running water. Many now face weeks more of this primitive way of living as devastated towns and families struggle to get back on their feet.

Mary Frances Parrish, 72, is among the thousands of Floridians who are bracing themselves for weeks without electricity and running water.

Parrish lives in the Panama City area with her 47-year-old son, Derrell. Her son is terminally ill, she told the Associated Press, and has a life expectancy of just a few weeks. Derrell, who has cancer, may not live to see the electricity return to their home, which suffered significant damage in the storm. Parrish said, however, that the pair have no money and no car to leave for somewhere better.

“I didn’t have a way of getting away from here. My car’s under repair and there’s nowhere to go or the money to pay for a place,” Parrish told AP. “People are sending stuff in. I’ve got plenty of water, I’ve got cold drinks, I’ve got plenty to eat. It may be right out of the can, but it’s plenty to eat. As long as you can have plenty to eat and drink and stay in good spirits, you’ll make it.” 

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that about 200,000 Floridians were “still sleeping in the dark and unable to operate their well water pumps. Many are running out of fuel in their vehicles.” 

17 PHOTOS
Devastating photos show impact of Hurricane Michael
See Gallery
Devastating photos show impact of Hurricane Michael
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10: Phlomena Telker stands on what was her covered porch after hurricane Michael tore the roof of her home as it passed through the area on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10: Haley Nelson stands in front of what is left of one of her fathers trailer homes after hurricane Michael passed through the area on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10: Rick Teska (L) helps a business owner rescue his dogs from the damagd business after hurricane Michael passed through the area on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 11: Kathy Coy stands among what is left of her home after Hurricane Michael destroyed it on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. She said she was in the home when it was blown apart and is thankful to be alive. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Michael Williams, 70, looks for help from passing motorists for food and water as downed trees prevent him from driving out of his damaged home in the aftermath of hurricane Michael with his family in Springfield, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. "I don't know what I'm going to do," said Williams. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
First responders and residents walk along a main street following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Dorian Carter looks under furniture for a missing cat after several trees fell on their home during Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. Supercharged by abnormally warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle with terrifying winds of 155 mph Wednesday, splintering homes and submerging neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10: People look on at a damaged store after Hurricane Michael passed through on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. Michael made landfall at Mexico Beach today a Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, the most powerful storm ever to hit the Florida Panhandle. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A McDonald's sign damaged by Hurricane Michael is pictured in Panama City Beach, Florida, U.S. October 10, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Aerial photo shows homes destroyed after Hurricane Michael smashed into Florida's northwest coast in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 11, 2018. Chris O'Meara/Pool via REUTERS
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10: A man takes some tobacco products from a damaged store after hurricane Michael passed through the area on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A resident of St. Marks, Fla., rescues a cooler out of the floodwaters near his home Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. Powerful Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle with terrifying winds of 155 mph Wednesday, splintering homes and submerging neighborhoods before continuing its destructive march inland across the Southeast. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in nearly 50 years and at least one death was reported during its passage. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
An American flag flies amongst rubble left in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S. October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10: Damaged buildings and a flooded street are seen after hurricane Michael passed through the downtown area on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10: People walk past damaged stores after hurricane Michael passed through the downtown area on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PANAMA CITY, FL - OCTOBER 10: A tree lays on a home and car after hurricane Michael passed through the area on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CRAWFORDVILLE - OCTOBER 10: An American flag battered by Hurricane Michael continues to fly in the in the rose colored light of sunset at Shell Point Beach on October 10, 2018 in Crawfordville, Florida.The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Officials with the Federal Emergency and Management Agency (FEMA) have warned that it could be “multiple weeks” before power is fully restored to some hard-hit areas.

In Lynn Haven, a city in Bay County where Hurricane Michael downed “just about every tree” and destroyed the power grid, Mayor Margo Anderson has warned residents that it could take up to two months for power to be restored to every home.

Gulf Power, the main utility in the area, has estimated that electricity will be restored to Lynn Haven and neighboring communities by Oct. 24 ― which would be about two weeks after the storm hit. 

But Anderson told The New York Times on Sunday that she wants people to be prepared for the worst. “I just want to be realistic and warn people that for a while, it’s going to be pretty primitive living,” Anderson said.

Residents in Blountstown, located in the hard-hit Calhoun County, have also been told that it could take weeks for their lights to return. 

“It’s a total rebuild of our system,” city manager Traci Hall told the Times. “Almost every single light pole in this city is on the ground. There is hardly any wires left hanging, period.”

For vulnerable communities already saddled with hardship prior to the storm, the recovery journey is expected to be especially challenging. Many of the counties impacted by Michael ― including Calhoun, Gulf and Franklin ― have some of the highest poverty rates in the state.

In the wake of the hurricane, which killed at least 18 people in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, many stories of scarcity and desperation have been reported.

15 PHOTOS
Aerial photos show Hurricane Michael's impact
See Gallery
Aerial photos show Hurricane Michael's impact
In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michael's wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)
In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michael's wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)
In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michael's wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)
In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michael's wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)
People walk past homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael are shown in this aerial photo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus Thursday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews began making their way into the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
A home is destroyed from Hurricane Michael Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Damaged houses are seen during a U.S. Coast Guard aerial assessment of coastal areas affected by Hurricane Michael near Apalachicola, Florida, U.S. October 11, 2018. U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
A capsized boat is seen during a U.S. Coast Guard aerial assessment of coastal areas affected by Hurricane Michael near Apalachicola, Florida, U.S. October 11, 2018. U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
A boat yard is seen during a U.S. Coast Guard aerial assessment of coastal areas affected by Hurricane Michael near Apalachicola, Florida, U.S. October 11, 2018. U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
A roof over a boat storage building is collapsed following Hurricane Michael Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Panama City Beach, Fla. Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
An industrial area is seen during a U.S. Coast Guard aerial assessment of coastal areas affected by Hurricane Michael near Apalachicola, Florida, U.S. October 11, 2018. U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michael's wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)
In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michael's wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)
Debris from Hurricane Michael fills a lot Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Homes washed away by Hurricane Michael are shown in this aerial photo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The mayor of Lynn Haven estimated that more than half of the city’s 20,000 residents don’t have generators. In Blountstown, the city manager said “there are many, many that do not have a generator and can’t afford to purchase” one. 

In the Panama City area, many residents who can’t afford to leave their damaged homes said they were hunkering down and making do with whatever they have.

Clinton Moseley, a 55-year-old who lost part of his leg in a car accident, told the AP that he and his 81-year-old mother were staying in their house, which suffered extensive damage after a huge tree crashed through the roof. 

“Where the hell do you go?” said Moseley, who does not have a job. “I survive. I got one leg. I don’t have nothing. I ain’t going nowhere.”

David Spates, a 72-year-old who lives alone and has two amputated legs because of complications from his diabetes, told Buzzfeed that he too was staying put.

“I don’t really have any transportation,” Spates said, adding that he was relying on his neighbors for help.

FEMA Administrator William “Brock” Long said Sunday that officials were doing their best to expedite the recovery process ― but warned there was still a “long way to go.”

“A lot of times people don’t realize the National Guard, the power trucks, the charitable groups, this is all a coordinated effort,” Long said, according to the Post. “We are seeing the private sector come back up pretty quickly. We’ve got a long way to go, but expectations that things will be put back together instantly is mistaken.” 

Even when the lights do come back on, some impacted communities say they’re preparing for the long slog.

In Calhoun County, for instance, officials said the main commercial operation ― the timber industry ― could take years to bounce back after being devastated by the storm. 

“We are used to bad days, but right now we’re facing three bad months,”
Calhoun County Sheriff Glen Kimbrel told the Post. “We’ll be 25 years recovering from this in our timber community.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
Read Full Story