Hurricane Michael Ravaged the Florida Panhandle. Will Residents Be Able to Vote?

Hurricane Michael Ravaged the Florida Panhandle. Will Residents Be Able to Vote?

Heres How That One Mexico Beach House Survived Hurricane Michael

A single home remarkably left standing on Florida's Mexico Beach after Hurricane Michael might very well become a prototype for how to build on the coast in the decades to come.

An image of one home still standing amid unthinkable devastation shows the hard work and forward thinking of Dr. Lebron Lackey, a radiologist from Cleveland, Tennessee, and his uncle, Russell King, an attorney from Chattanooga. Their Sand Palace of Mexico Beach, finished in April, was designed to survive a monster hurricane, and the reinforced concrete structure was meant to be the last home standing in the event of the unthinkable.

Paramedics from Greene, Sullivan and Washington Counties returned home Tuesday evening after nearly a week deployed to the Florida panhandle after Hurricane Matthew. (WCYB/Caleb Perhne)

Lackey didn't say how much he and King spent to build the home, but he did disclose that they spent 15 to 20 percent more to go above and beyond standard Florida building codes.

In Florida, the team evacuated a hospital and a nursing home. They also helped local crews respond to an overload of 911 calls. Theyre glad to now be returning to their own beds.

Video: Hurricane Michael left Mexico Beach in shambles

"Neither one of us had ever built a home," Lackey told "We knew we were building a home in a position to potentially suffer a natural disaster – a hurricane."

“Were definitely ready to come home, get some rest, and see our families, and spend some time down. Then well return to shift and get back to work.”

After Hurricane Michael, A Call For Stricter Building Codes In Floridas Panhandle

Despite the work they did to fortify the Sand Palace – in addition to the one-foot-thick concrete walls, tall 40-foot pilings were driven deep into the ground and steel cables held the roof in place – Lackey, who was at his primary home in Tennessee during landfall, watched the footage from a security camera with great concern.

A group of nearly a dozen paramedics from our region are now home. Theyre back after spending nearly a week helping victims of Hurricane Michael.

He wasn't sure the cables would hold the roof down while 130-mph winds attempted to rip it away.

There were eleven paramedics from Washington, Sullivan and Greene counties. Theyre part of a Tennessee Strike team deployed to the area.

"I went through this storm with a tremendous amount of anxiety and concern," said Lackey. "I was also heartbroken for all those dwellings around us."

Video: East TN paramedics help with Hurricane Michael response

Lackey, who traveled from Tennessee to Mexico Beach to survey the damage and assist with emergency response, said he hopes the now-viral image of the Sand Palace surviving Michael serves as a reminder to all that stronger codes are only half the battle.

The codes call for shatterproof windows, fortified roofs and reinforced concrete pillars, among other specifications. But it wasn’t until 2007 that homes built in the Panhandle more than 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) from shore were required to follow the higher standards. Hurricane Michael pummeled the region with devastating winds from the sea all the way into Georgia, destroying buildings more than 70 miles from the shoreline.

Video: Hurricane Michael Pummels Panana City, Florida As Monstrous Category 4 Storm

"You aren't a hero if you stay," said Lackey. "The first responders who come to clean up are the heroes."

Video: Hurricane Michael Pummels Panana City, Florida As Monstrous Category 4 Storm

New drone footage of Mexico Beach shows utter destruction left behind from Michael

The death toll from Hurricane Michael is continuing to rise—a week after the powerful storm made landfall on the Florida Panhandle.

Mexico Beach, the Gulf Coast town destroyed by Michael, lacked a lot of new or retrofitted construction, said Craig Fugate, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a former emergency management chief for the state of Florida. The small seaside community had a lot of older mobile homes and low-income year-round residents working in the commercial fishing and service industries.

At least 29 people have now died as a result of the storm, a Category 4 cyclone with 155 mph winds. According to USA Today in a report on Oct. 17, seven more fatalities were recorded.

David Prevatt, an associate professor of civil and coastal engineering at the University of Florida, said in an email Thursday that drone footage of the devastation in Mexico Beach showed structural damage to roofs and exterior walls, and damaged rafters and trusses, “indicating the strength of the wind that caused those failures.”

FCC Chairman criticizes mobile carriers for unacceptable progress after Hurricane Michael

Officials said there were at least three more deaths in Bay County, which includes Mexico Beach and Panama City. Overall, there were 23 deaths in Florida and 10 in other states.

"When it came time to make a decision about what level of material or what to use, we didn't pay attention to code. We went above and beyond code and we asked the question what would survive the big one. And we've consistently tried to build it for that," says one of the owners, Dr. Lebron Lackey.

The report said that 15,876 single residences have been damaged and 4,240 single residences have been destroyed. About 124,000 people were still without power as of Oct. 17.

However, Hurricane Michael did not leave the house unscathed. According to the "Sand Palace" Facebook page, its ground floor and the stairs up to the middle floor are gone. So are the windows in one of the bedrooms and all of the utilities need replacing. 

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford told the Pensacola News Journal: That is certainly a tragedy and our hearts go out to the families that lost love[d] ones in that. Dr. Jay Radtke, the medical examiner for Florida’s 14th Judicial Circuit, said, As far as deaths, Bay County has been the worst.

The owners say the house was built with hurricanes in mind. For instance, Hurricane Michael made landfall packing maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour. 

But more than 1,000 people remain missing a week after the storm hit, Reuters reported. Houston-based CrowdSource Rescue said that 1,135 people are unaccounted for, and the organization is looking for them. Those who are missing might be with friends or family, and they are not necessarily presumed to be dead.

Russell King, the other homeowner, commented, "We're glad our house survived but we're so sad– we're overcome with sadness for anybody else."

Mexico Beach residents return home 1 week after Michael

The report said that due to downed trees, power lines, and large quantities of debris, its been difficult to search for and rescue people.

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (CNN) — The owners of a Florida home that made it through Hurricane Michael say the design saved their home. 

FEMA, meanwhile, has distributed more than 4.5 million meals, more than 5 million liters of water, and 9 million infant-and-toddler kits, according to the Reuters report, citing a FEMA spokesman.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, second from left, President Donald J Trump, center left, Melania Trump, center right, and Lynn Haven, Fla., Mayor Margo Anderson walk through a neighborhood in the storm-ravaged city Monday Oct. 15, 2018. (Michael Snyder/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

According to the mayor of Mexico Beach, Al Cathey. He said 289 people, including 10 children, decided to stay despite evacuation orders last week, ABC reported.

We dont have a building; from my understanding, the water surge moved it off its foundation, Mexico Beach Police Chief Anthony Kelly said. The officers, I finally made accountability of them all today, two days after the fact. … Theyre not just my officers, the people that I work with, theyre my family.

“The job they’ve done in Florida has been incredible,” Trump said, adding that Gov. Rick Scott “steps up in the biggest emergencies, the biggest problems, and he gets it done,” AccuWeather reported.

Hurricane Michaels devastation continues with more deaths reported in Florida

“Every time I called, he’s come through and done exactly what he said he was going to do,” Scott said of Trump’s response.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, Florida Panhandle residents are struggling to locate friends and loved ones who havent been heard from, and its unclear how many people are missing.

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