Stories from the storm

Tina Harbuck

From clearing a path or sharing a home or a meal, the people in Bay County are making the best of an overwhelming situation left by the wrath of Hurricane Michael.

Here are the stories from a few of folks around the area.

Pipeline Road resident — Josey Freeman

Josey Freeman, 30, was taking a breather standing alongside what was left of his chain link fence after pulling out trees to clear the road into his neighborhood off Pipeline Road.

“We got out here and pulled off the trees as soon as we could ... snatching them out,” with his truck, Freeman said.

Freeman, who lives at the corner of Country Lake and Amanda Circle, rode out Hurricane Michael in his mobile home along with his girlfriend, dad, dog Chance and six cats.

“I grew up in St. Joe, so I was used to hurricanes,” he said.

He stayed up and watched the news the night before and it looked as if the storm was going to go more east.

But by the time they realized it was up to a Category 4 storm and it wasn’t a good idea to stay, it was too late to evacuate.

“It was bad when it first started blowing ... it was the worst,” Freeman said.

“There were times you couldn’t see out the windows. It was like a whiteout,” he said.

They threw the dogs and six cats in the bathroom and they hunkered down.

“It felt like the Wizard of Oz … like the whole house would just lift off,” Freeman said.

“I’ve been through it, but never again.”

Since his home didn’t take off with the wind, and his damage is not as bad as some, mostly just shingles off the house and fence, he’s working on clearing out the road.

Next project is to hook up the pump to the generator and get some water flowing.

“Hopefully I can take a shower tonight,” he said.

Transmitter Road — Springfield Community Church

“God helped us, so we’re not going to turn them down,” Kenetha Pitts, wife of Pastor Eddie Pitts of Springfield Community Church off Transmitter Road, said as she stirred the huge pot of vegetable soup.

The long-standing church, founded by the Rev. J.W. Hunt, had a table set up outside Friday to serve up food and water to whoever was in need.

Pitts said God helped them by answering a prayer in just a matter of minutes.

She said they had been cooking and had to ration it out because there were a lot of people to feed and she was worried about running out of water. So they stopped and prayed and decided to share what they had with whoever was in need.

And in a matter of about 15 minutes a car from Mississippi drove up with a trunk and backseat full of cases of water and diapers.

“He came through and just unloaded on us,” Pitts said.

“So if we share, God will take care of us ... and he did,” she added.

But before they set up the tables to share food, Pitts and her husband started to ride out the hurricane in the parsonage beside the church.

“It started shaking, so we ran over to the church because the roof started falling in,” Pitts said.

“We’ve been through storms ... but it was terrifying,” noting that they had been through Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi.

“But we just prayed and trusted God,” she said.

They found table in the corner in the church.

“Then I thought it (the church) was going to collapse. ... It felt like the walls were breathing,” Pitts said.

But they made it through and have literally been serving the community since then.

From corn dogs to vegetable soup and whatever else, “We’ve been right here helping our people and feeding people,” she said.

Callaway — Fox Avenue

They had decided to stay, but the biggest decision during the storm was trying to figure out which room to get in as Michael made his presence known.

Destiny Kenny along with her husband Thomas, their three children — Charlie, Bryson and Cali — and her 90-year-old grandfather rode out the storm in their home Wednesday.

“It was so scary. ... I had this baby in my lap the whole time,” Destiny said of 18-month old Charlie.

“We couldn’t figure out which room to get in,” she said.

They started out in the laundry room, and then moved from one bedroom to another before they finally just crawled up under a mattress.

“The wind was so loud you couldn’t hear the trees snapping,” Thomas said.

“At one point we could see the eye,” Destiny said.

She said it was calm for about 30 minutes, which gave them time to change bedrooms.

“Then it came again, 10 times worse,” Destiny said.

But they survived.

“We’ve been trying to clean up all the debris, rationing out food and trying to stay hydrated,” she said.

“We’re going to stay until we know what to do,” she added.

The Kennys have family flying in from Atlanta. “We’re going to be swapping grandchildren for supplies,” Destiny said jokingly.

Their house sustained water damage but is livable.

“We were lucky the trees fell the other way,” Thomas said.

Salvation Army Stop — Meikeila Johnson

Walking to the car with six Styrofoam boxes filled with chips and a sandwich courtesy of the Salvation Army set up in the Walmart parking lot on Tyndall Parkway, Meikeila Johnson was thankful for the food, not knowing if she even has a job to go back to.

Johnson, 33, a mother of three ranging from 7 to 13 years old, lives in the St. Andrews neighborhood of Panama City but decided to ride out Hurricane Michael with her brother on Southgay Avenue in Calloway.

She said she was afraid to stay in her home because it was on a slope near the water.

“And thank God we stayed with him,” she said.

A tree had fallen on her home and about a foot of water had gotten in it.

“This is the most devastating thing I’ve ever been through. I literally freaked out. ... I had a panic attack,” she said.

But Johnson finally got her wits about her, knowing she had three children to care for.

The family was fine at her brother's in Callaway. They are still staying with him.

“We’re a family of seven now in a two-bedroom apartment,” Johnson said.

“But that was a blessing. and thank God for it.”

She said that although the water had receded from her home in St. Andrews, she can smell mold.

“I’d rather sleep on the floor than put my kids through that. I just thankful we all have our lives,” Johnson said.

The next step is to find a job. She said she worked for a convenience store that was badly damaged in the storm.

“It’s hard to do when you have no phone or gas,” she said.

“But when you’re a mother, you do whatever it takes.”

Cedar Grove Mobile Home Park — East Avenue

Sitting in a lawn chair, Suzanne Buholtz looked at the massive bruise on her arm. She wasn’t exactly sure how she got it.

But from the looks of what’s left of the three-bedroom mobile home where she and Michael Nelson rode out Michael, it’s not surprising she’s a bit black and blue.

“We huddled in my room and watched the roof fly off, then the walls started caving in,” Buholtz said.

“One nail at a time,” Nelson chimed in.

“It was the most horrendous wind,” Buholtz added.

When the storm finally passed, they just walked out through the walls.

Since then, Buholtz and Nelson have been digging through the rubble and sleeping under the stars.

Nelson said East Avenue didn’t look much better.

“It reminded me of Vietnam ... looking down East Avenue with all the trees down,” he said.

In the meantime, Nelson has contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency about their dire situation.

“They asked me some crazy questions, like can it be fixed. I said, ‘I think it’s totaled,' ” Nelson said.

Still, they have hope.

“We’ve still got good spirits,” Buholtz said.

“I survived Vietnam. I can survive anything,” Nelson said.