October 10th, 2018 is a date that residents of the Florida Panhandle will never forget. On this date, Hurricane Michael tore through the region causing unimaginable damage to property and taking at least 39 lives.
The category 4 storm had sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, just shy of a Category 5, and was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle since record keeping began. It was the fourth strongest hurricane to hit the United States in terms of wind speed, and the third strongest in terms of pressure. The storm was so strong that it was still a category 3 hurricane when it reached Georgia.
Mexico Beach are Port St. Joe suffered huge losses as the storm surge completely destroyed many beach front structures, including many homes and businesses blocks from the beaches. Large areas of Panama City, Lynn Haven, South Port, and Callaway received heavy damages as well. In contrast, Panama City Beach received far less damage as it was just far enough West of the eye of the storm and high winds.
The utility companies, particularly Gulf Power, are to be commended for their enormous effort to restore power throughout the region. In the days and weeks after the storm, thousands of utility trucks and personnel were everywhere. Gulf Power helped coordinate a massive response that included power company resources from 15 states including Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, with some as far as Kentucky, given the extent of the damage.
As of October 23rd, Gulf Power estimates that it has restored power to 95% of all customers who were able to sagely take power. Not only was power a major loss, but communication among the locals have been a major challenge.
Cell and internet services did not exist for more than half the population and only has recently came back online. Verizon towers suffered what representatives are now calling “unprecedented” damage as virtually all fiber to their towers resided on power poles that were fallen by the storm.
However, AT&T’s cellular service suffered only minor damage since they have fortunately buried the fiber to their towers. For this reason, AT&T has been one of the many hero’s for many. Customers and their loved ones were left frustrated by a lack of cell service which proved dangerous for people who need to call for help and check on family members. Verizon eventually brought in mobile hotspot’s and has since provided three months of free service to it’s customers throughout the region.
Hurricane Michael helped all of us realize how technology has become an essential part of our daily lives. Without cell and internet service, many of us are unable to function and feel completely cutoff and isolated from the world. Although TechFarms received only minor damage, our fiber connection was disrupted and we were forced to piece together a combination of internet alternatives including cable and personal cellular hotspot’s. We received calls from businesses that needed temporary office space with phone and internet access and we are accommodating as many of them as we can.
There are still many months of hard work to rebuild our communities. The good news is that everyone is working together and most have a positive outlook.
We will get through this together.