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Hurricane Michael Leaves Trail Of Destruction Along Florida Panhandle


At least six people have been killed since Hurricane Michael blasted ashore yesterday. The Category 4 storm left a huge trail of destruction along the Florida panhandle, including in the coastal community of Mexico Beach, which is where we find NPR's Greg Allen. The phone lines in Mexico Beach are understandably not great, but we think we've got you. Hey there, Greg.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: How bad is it?

ALLEN: Well, it's what you would expect. You know, it was a Category 4 storm, nearly Category 5 when - and it came ashore right here. The eye passed right over this area, Mexico Beach, which is a very small community. You know, the storm surge came in, and you can see signs of - everywhere. There's still lots of standing water here. Most of the water went out, but there are still plenty of it around. But it was those winds. You know, 155-mile-per-hour winds just tore apart many buildings here, lifted up entire buildings, threw them down on other ones. You saw roofs off, you know, siding off, sides off. Luckily, though, most people had left and weren't here to see it all.

KELLY: And are you able to drive around? I mean, are the streets relatively clear of water?

ALLEN: Yes. Here, it's a very small community, and the streets themselves are not too bad. Getting here is another matter. You know, we came over from Tallahassee today. It should be a couple hours. My producer Becky Sullivan and I - it took us nine hours to get here because you just don't know what roads are open. And when the roads are open, they're just barely open. You have to drive around this - around downed trees. You have power crews out and in - and good Samaritans doing what they can, but it's still a very hard slog to get in or out of this area.

KELLY: All right. What about the impact on people? I mean, as always with these storms, some people stayed. They rode out the storm. I assume you've been out talking to them. What are they saying?

ALLEN: Yeah, I mean, it's a tough one. I mean, we talked to a man here who stayed, and he said he left in Hurricane Opal, which was in 1995. And he always regretted it. It was so hard to get back into this community later. He always swore he'd stay. So he stayed, and he said the storm was like anything he was prepared for or had ever experienced before - you know, the sound, the noise, the windows, the walls flexing.

And he had a little safe room built for himself and his pets. At one point, he said it became so - he - something told him that this was no longer safe, and they moved to an inner-bathroom. And as that happened, the windows shattered. Glass blasted in. He said that he certainly would have been injured if that had been the case. And he kind of struggled to patch up his window and rode out the rest of the storm. And today he's here repairing his house with a neighbor. You know, I asked him if he was sorry that he stayed. He says, no, he'd do it again...


ALLEN: ...Because, he says, if I didn't stay, then all my material - all my possessions - everything would get ruined by the rain and the other stuff coming in.

KELLY: And what about the people who did evacuate? Is there any kind of time frame on when they might be able to come home?

ALLEN: No, I don't - I'm not - not yet as far as I know. When you arrive in Gulf County here, you get an alert on your cellphone telling you that only first responders are allowed in the county at this point, that they don't - that even private - even people who live here, residents, are not allowed back. And so there's roadblocks at many - all the major intersections. And many, many people are being turned away to their frustration. So it's - they're worried about the safety because there are still wires down everywhere here. So it's safety first, and it's going to be some time I think before people are allowed back.

KELLY: That's NPR's Greg Allen reporting in Mexico Beach, Fla. We hope you stay safe. Thanks so much.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
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