Roanoke man recalls aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Florida Panhandle

Published: Oct. 7, 2019 at 10:25 PM EDT
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"Unless you see this firsthand it's honestly outside of your imagination, there's no way to even imagine this."

That's what Roanoke business owner Cody Johnson said in October 2018, surveying the damage on his parents' Panama City home.

"This place used to be fully shaded and now there's no shade," he said, his hands up in the air. "There's no nothing."

A year ago, we met Johnson of Xtensive Automotive in Panama City, Florida as he was helping his parents recover from the worst storm they'd ever seen. Johnson even brought donated supplies from southwest Virginia, another region left soaking by Michael's heavy rains.

"I've never seen anything like this, and the same storm hit Roanoke the next day, causing flooding downtown, flooding in Salem," he said. "I told people just imagine what happened here but a 100 times worse."

Now, Johnson said the memory of Michael lingers.

"It wasn't until about a month ago that my parents were even fully recovered."

While he's lived through hurricanes before growing up in the Florida Panhandle, his perspective is forever changed.

"I said if anything's gonna be a category four or higher, I'm loading up my truck and trailer and going to get my parents," he said. "We're not going through that again."

It wasn't just the destructive storm, but one of the hottest summers his parents can recall.

"They lost over 60 trees on an acre of property," he said, noting the severe lack of shade. "What they've seen, I believe they've been there since '74, what they were used to seeing every day is just gone."

His childhood home is forever changed. Many people in Florida's Panhandle are still waiting for permanent, affordable housing and for federal aid to come through.

Johnson said his parents plan to make Virginia their new home as soon as possible.

"It may take a generation of people to recover," he said. "There's a new status quo."

Copyright 2019/WDBJ7. All rights reserved.

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