LOGAN — Monte and Betty Amnah, of Logan, traveled with the American Red Cross to Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael’s massive devastation.
Hurricane Michael was the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous United States in terms of pressure, behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille of 1969. It was also the strongest storm in terms of maximum sustained wind speed to strike the contiguous United States since Andrew in 1992. In addition, it was the strongest storm on record in the Florida Panhandle, and was the fourth-strongest land falling hurricane in the contiguous United States, in terms of wind speed.
The 13th named storm, seventh hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, Michael originated from a broad low-pressure area that formed in the southwestern Caribbean Sea on Oct. 2. The disturbance became a tropical depression on Oct. 7, after nearly a week of slow development. By the next day, Michael had intensified into a hurricane near the western tip of Cuba, as it moved northward.
The hurricane strengthened rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico, reaching major hurricane status on Oct. 9, peaking as a high-end Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson scale. Approaching the Florida Panhandle, Michael attained peak winds of 155 mph as it made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, on Oct. 10, becoming the first to do so in the region as a Category 4 hurricane, and making landfall as the strongest storm of the season.
As it moved inland, the storm weakened and began to take a northeastward trajectory toward Chesapeake Bay, weakening to a tropical storm over Georgia, and transitioning into an extra-tropical cyclone off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic states on Oct. 12. Michael subsequently strengthened into a powerful extra-tropical cyclone and eventually impacted the Iberian Peninsula, before dissipating on Oct. 16.
By Oct. 28, at least 60 deaths had been attributed to the storm, including 45 in the United States and 15 in Central America. Hurricane Michael caused at least $11.28 billion in damages, including $100 million in economic losses in Central America, $6 billion in destroyed U.S. fighter jets at Tyndall Air Force Base, and at least $1.5 billion in insurance claims in the U.S. Losses to agriculture and timber alone exceeded $3.68 billion.
As a tropical depression, the storm caused extensive flooding in Central America in concert with a second disturbance over the eastern Pacific Ocean. In Cuba, the hurricane’s winds left over 200,000 people without power as the storm passed to the island’s west.
Along the Florida panhandle, the cities of Mexico Beach and Panama City suffered the worst of Michael, with catastrophic damage reported due to the extreme winds and storm surge. Numerous homes were flattened and trees felled over a wide swath of the panhandle.
A maximum wind gust of 129 mph was measured at Tyndall Air Force Base near the point of landfall. As Michael tracked across the Southeastern United States, strong winds caused extensive power outages across the region.
After spending their first night sleeping on cots in a gymnasium, the group of around 200 volunteers traveled to Red Cross headquarters in Tallahassee to get their assignments.
Volunteers make it possible to respond to nearly 64,000 disasters every year, most of them home and apartment fires. Find out about the needs in your area by searching for current volunteer opportunities. Volunteers constitute about 90 percent of the American Red Cross workforce. Volunteers provide food, shelter, comfort and care for families affected by major disasters such as fire, hurricanes and tornadoes.
Having not experienced being in a hurricane nor its aftermath, the Red Cross decided to send the Amnahs to a place that would be somewhat less dramatic.
“Then we were told that this is a good place for you to go since this is your first deployment. You’re going to this school down in Blountstown,” Betty related.
Monte said that the Blountstown High School was only four or five years old.
“Even the school lost part of its roof,” Monte said.
Betty related how on the way down they saw massive amounts of destruction, especially the trees along Interstate 10.
“I kid you not, I bet half of the trees were down,” she stressed.
Betty and Monte both expressed how strange it was that you would see a beautiful brick home and all the trees around it were basically wiped out.
When asked how they got involved with the Red Cross, Betty said, “When I retired I wanted to do this, that is, I basically wanted to go help out in disasters. Monte started listening to me talk about it. The more I talked about it, Monte said, ‘l would like to try it with you.”
Now that they’re home, they are still getting calls here to help out locally with fire runs or to help them replace items of necessity.
While they were still there, the Red Cross brought in portable showers and a little later a truck full of washers and dryers.
“Luckily they had restrooms at the school which had indoor facilities,” Monte laughed.
“They told us before we got there how many people would be in the shelter, so a bunch of us stopped at Walmart on the way down to pick up towels, washcloths, toothbrushes and tooth paste, etc.,” Betty remarked.
“We met a lot of great people, with the Red Cross”, Betty and Monte agreed. “It was a rewarding experience.”