Cars are pulling over west of East County Highway 30-A on Highway 98 to connect laptops and cell phones.
INLET BEACH — Ginger Marcinkowski became curious when she began to see dozens of cars suddenly pull to the side of the road just west of Camp Helen State Park on Highway 98.
The curious behavior along about a mile-long stretch road, from approximately East County Highway 30A to Breakers Street, is due to a cellular signal that brings Verizon users back online. AT&T and Sprint can also connect on the mobile mile.
In Marcinkowski's case, she says the signal allows her to deliver good, but emotional news to her family that she is OK.
"It's absolutely beautiful right now," said Marcinkowski in a breaking voice and tears. "We're just finding it. It gets emotional to let people know you're OK."
After the storm, Marcinkowski's son purchased a prepaid "burner phone" for her in Destin connected to AT&T, the network that appeared to be least affected by Hurricane Michael's wrath. An AT&T station was set up at 2694 Highway 77 near Kohl's in Panama City on Sunday to distribute prepaid phones and sim cards to residents who live in storm-ravaged areas.
Mark Ronan used the mobile hot spot to contact his family in Wilmington, North Carolina, who survived the impact of Hurricane Florence a month ago. After the storm his sister was involved in a head-on crash with an alleged drunk driver and she has been unresponsive in the hospital.
"I come up here twice a day," says Ronan of the mobile spot. "Probably three hours of my day is spent trying to communicate with the outside world."
Ronan said he has told his friends who use Verizon about the secret location that is conveniently close to Panama City.
Elizabeth Howard said she is also a Laguna Beach resident living across the bridge from Inlet Beach. She was trying to call friends Monday that she hasn't heard from since the storm struck.
"The city was terrible," Howard says. "It's bad; it's heartbreaking."
She has been picking up debris around her house, but has electricity and could go back to work in a couple days.
"It's crazy; it's like the Twilight Zone," says Howard, a Verizon customer. "I'll be walking around my apartment trying to get service."
According to Verizon spokeswoman Karen Schulz, the local network suffered "an unprecedented amount of fiber damage" in parts of Panama City, Panama City Beach, and Mexico Beach.
Marcinkowski said that while losing service is an inconvenience, its a small price to pay for surviving.
"If we had to commend anybody it is the first responders and the electrical workers," she said. "It's like watching them dance down the street with their power poles."