Panhandle still recovering while bracing for another storm

By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
July 9, 2019

Image Source: Ryan Hennessy / WTVY / MGN

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) –Wednesday marks the nine-month anniversary of Hurricane Michael’s landfall in the Panhandle.

As of Monday, there were still 21,669 open insurance claims and many are concerned about a tropical storm that could dump inches of rain later this week.

At the start of July a tarp was still covering part Art Kimbrough’s Marianna home.

The damage caused to his neighbor's roof had just been repaired the previous week.

Blocks away, the floor of Kimbrough’s downtown art store and office was covered in plastic.

“Every time it rains, water is coming in,” said Kimbrough. "We have buckets over here.”

Kimbrough estimates he’ll have to empty buckets every two or three hours if the tropical storm expected to form over Georgia produces the three to five inches of rain that has been forecasted.

“Water comes down the wall, we try to steer it into buckets and keep it from doing any more damage than it can,” said Kimbrough.

Panhandle residents are still facing multiple roadblocks to recovery.

The first: Settling with their insurance companies.

Just under 15 percent of the more than 147,000 claims from Michael remain outstanding.

“Well, on our house the initial claim came in at $27,000 and grew to a hundred and $72,000,” said Kimbrough. "On this building [the art store], initially it was $85,000. Now it’s a $186,000.”

Even when a company settles, labor is in short supply, which is why nine months later, Kimbrough’s roof is still leaking.

“Because there’s no brickmasons anywhere to be had. There’s a shortage of them to begin with. They have so much work to do in all the communities around here,” said Kimbrough.

Labor in high demand like brick layers and roofers are commanding as much as 25 to 50 percent more than they were making before Michael hit the Panhandle.

Given all the other struggles Panhandle residents have faced, the last thing they want is more rain.

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