BLOUNTSTOWN, Fla. (WMBB)–Calhoun County was forever changed one year ago. Hurricane Michael ravaged the community as it made its way from county line to county line.
“I spent the whole storm in my wife’s SUV 3 miles south of town in a ditch,” said Duane Browne, a Blountstown resident.
Duane brown lives in Blountstown. He was trapped in an SUV for five hours, watching his community be destroyed around him.
“I worked in Iraq and Afghanistan and for the first 45 minutes of the storm, I was more frightened than I had been in a combat zone because you see trees snapping off,” Brown said.
Brown says Michael’s impacts are still felt every day in Blountstown.
“It can be depressing. I had a couple of months where I didn’t really want to do anything because of the storm and if people are already dealing with stuff, it makes it worse,” Brown said.
A depression shared by both residents and leaders.
“The depression, it seems to be building and is worse and worse every day. So that’s why we’re working hard to improve it and improve the quality of living and fix some homes, fix anything that we can,” said Gene Bailey, Calhoun County Chairman District 5.
Michael drastically changed the County’s landscape. Changes that can still be seen today.
“This thing is probably gonna be close to $500,000,000 before we get out of it in 10 years because there’s just so much destroyed that’s gonna have to be rebuilt,” Bailey said.
The courthouses, county jail, and recycling center are just a few of the buildings that were severely damaged by Michael.
But Bailey says recovery is coming.
“Our goal to a full recovery is to do something with the debris and the rivers and the trees that’s on the ground and something to help our timber industry back up,” Bailey said.
Bailey says affordable housing is also on the horizon.
“The Calhoun County Board of County Commissioners received $2,023,000 from Florida Housing Coalition Tuesday for our HHRP program which is to build affordable housing for low and moderate-income people,” Bailey said.
As the County looks to the future, both Bailey and Brown say they’ve learned just how close their community really is.
“When storms like this happen, you can’t just stay with yourself. You have to get out and help people because that’s what were here for, is to help,” Brown said.