PANAMA CITY, Fla.-- Panama City is far from fully recovered one year after Hurricane Michael. People are still living in mobile homes awaiting repairs. Some businesses are still shuttered.
“Right now, there’s just a bunch of work to do," said pastor Ron Brown.
For many the little successes keep them going. "This is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. You have to look at it that way," the pastor said.
Progress on the First Presbyterian Church roof is a mini milestone. The pastor, still in need of millions for a complete rebuild, remains positive. “A year from now— my hope is will be back in here. This will all be built. Then we’ll celebrate.”
For the state’s CFO — a Bay County native — the day marked a moment of mixed feelings of loss and progress.
“I’m trying to get this out of my system early because I’m an optimist. I’m proud to be from northwest Florida. I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure we’re the envy of the whole United States," Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said.
While some spent the day with a hammer rebuilding, others were replanting. A local business handed out free trees after the county lost about 70%.
“It’s a lot hotter than it was a year ago. There is no shade left," said Mike Burns with the Dawson company.
People like Victoria Bottorf took home saplings and a smile. Despite the damage to her town there is happiness it weathered the storm. “I woke up this morning and said, 'I’m not going to be sad.' We’re here. We’re alive. We have a roof. We’re OK, you know?”
CFO Petronis went on to say getting more FEMA cleanup dollars is a priority. He called the funding trickle thus far anemic and said communities are struggling to pay bills until those dollars arrive.