When the days became shorter and nights cooler, James Mowbray and Dorothy Walker packed their possessions on Sweetest Thing, the…
When the days became shorter and nights cooler, James Mowbray and Dorothy Walker packed their possessions on Sweetest Thing, the area on a hill near Denton, they had loved for several years and went to the Florida Panhandle with their dog Sophie.
The long-term couple, both retired lawyers, had spent winters bouncing around to different RV parks. But they had finally decided to officially move to soft sandy beaches and February in the 60’s.
On workday, they unpacked their boxes in their new home, three blocks from the beach, in the Magnolia Bluff area of Port St Joe.
Just over a month later, they would be heading back out of town on their RV, heading toward Troy, Alabama and out of the way for a near storm.
“We consider Hurricane Michael our welcome wagon, and he came in with a blow,” Walker said in a phone call last week, one day before she and her husband finally could come home.
The October 1
0 hurricane, said to be the third most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landslides in the United States, swept through its new, small city. Folding over the church tower and leaving homes and companies that had been there for years in pieces like piles of sticks.
In a post next night on Facebook Walker told friends:
“Our cute little town of Port St Joe Florida has been destroyed like other cities nearby. There’s a lot of work to do to recover from Hurricane Michael. give us your thoughts and give what you can to the Red Cross. There are many people here who have lost everything and had a little bit before the storm. Keep this cute little city with 2500 in your thoughts and hearts. “
Just a few days earlier, they had snapshots on the beach.
Now the whole beaches in their city and Mexico Beach saw just three miles from their home, war hero, victims of irresistible 155 mph gales and a 10-foot storm storm from the Gulf.
“The water just rolled through these homes and took it all out with them,” said Mowbray. “The damage, it’s just incredibly bad.”
Corrugated steel was everywhere, like pieces of toilet paper, he said. Winds swirled oaks, tipped over them as bowling sticks. The power poles were snapped and lines spread everywhere. 19659009] 5
Beautiful home destroyed, Walker said.
When the hurricane was still on the ocean, steam built, when a category 2, Mowbray said they decided to take their trailer and go out. Once it had become a category 4, the entire neighborhood was part of a big text message that lets others know if they lived or went. Only a couple stayed.
After the storm collapsed, from a RV park in Alabama, they were waiting to hear news about their homes, to know about the newly built modern home that they had closed in just two weeks earlier was still. They got news from neighbors’ texts and from a Port St. Joe Group on Facebook.
Mowbray said that someone posted a link to satellite images from after the storm and they could zoom in and see their roof still intact. A big relief. But they could not return as easily as they had left.
That Friday spent the 12 hours driving 90 miles or so from Troy to Port St. Joe, just to turn back the police at the bridge into the city. They could not enter Sunday.
In a Facebook post that day, Walker gave friends and family an update:
“Having seen our home for the first time since … we felt blessed that we only had minor injuries.”
Mowbray said they bought a house on a bluff 21 meters above sea level. But almost everything else in town is just one foot or two above sea level.
Walker said it was such a beautiful community with tall trees and beautiful houses. She remembered saying to Jim that she believed she could live there.
“It’s just a very sweet area,” she said.
It’s not big. There are no elevations like near Panama City. Walker describes it as a kind of humble area.
“And although it looks pretty bad right now we do not go anywhere,” she said.
Wednesday they and Sophie could stay at home. They hoped to get back electricity soon.
Before the storm, Mowbray said they had met their neighbors in the next door and said hi to some of the others. Now they know the entire district.
“Now we have not only met them, but we have something in common. You’re not strangers anymore,” he said.
Three neighbors took over tools because he has not yet done it from Nebraska and helped him with a temporary fix for the roof of the porch. Others took out their trash
The local food store, left without power like the rest of the city, calculated a system for shopping for people. The gas company released propane tanks so people could grill.  Mowbray said everyone has come together and tries to help everyone else.
Walker said it was not easy, but that’s okay. So many others have nothing, she said. She encourages people to donate to the Red Cross if they can.
She and her husband both said they think everyone in the city got a little closer to the storm.
“I think it will be society I thought it was,” said Walker.