Hurricane Michael came out of nowhere, late in the storm season as Florida seemed poised to exhale at having escaped a summer without incident. By the time the storm struck Northwest Florida, its winds were blowing at 155 mph, making it the strongest to hit the Panhandle since records have been kept and one of the strongest to hit the U.S. Damage along Florida’s Panhandle coast was catastrophic. Mexico Beach, a quiet enclave that prided itself on its Old Florida ambience — and where most structures were built decades before the state’s post-Andrew building codes — was all but obliterated. At the time FLORIDA TREND went to press, the death toll in Florida from the storm was 35. The hurricane disrupted communications in the region, forced the state to extend early voting and ravaged 3 million acres of timberland, with damages the state estimates at more than $1 billion. The storm’s effects will all but certainly spill over into this year’s legislative session and 2019 budget-making. Longer term, rebuilding — presumably according to much stronger building codes — will take years.
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