ABOUT THIS SERIES
The Panhandle was devastated in October by Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm that grew rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico and tore into the coast near Tyndall Air Force Base. That placed its fierce front right quadrant over Mexico Beach, a town of just 1,200 people, which had subsisted for decades on an economy built around retirement, sunsets and recreational fishing.
Recovery will take years, and residents will face a decision of whether to rebuild or leave. There are lessons in the cleanup for all Floridians, who by the whims of the weather could find themselves in the same struggle next time.
The Tampa Bay Times is following the Wood family, owners of the Driftwood Inn in Mexico Beach, as they attempt to rebuild. Along the way, they will deal with shifting regulations, difficult financial decisions and frequent reminders of what they lost. We do not know where or when the story will end.
We hope you’ll reach out as you read along. What do you want to know? What do you think you would do? Who should decide where we can build, and who will bear the cost?
Peggy Wood sits in her camper in early December, two months after Hurricane Michael destroyed the Driftwood Inn. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
The Woods flee Mexico Beach before Hurricane Michael and return to find the splintered remains of a motel they spent four decades perfecting. Amid the ruins, they begin to think about what comes next. CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY
VIDEO: THE WOOD FAMILY RECALLS THE INN AND HURRICANE MICHAEL
GALLERY: THE DRIFTWOOD INN, BEFORE THE STORM
HOW TO HELP
To learn more about how to donate to storm recovery in Mexico Beach, visit www.mexicobeachgov.com.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE FROM MEXICO BEACH
From left: Lee Cathey, 37, Mayor Al Cathey, 71, and Charles Smith, 55, survey damage from Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach on Oct. 11, 2018. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
After the storm