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Walton County leaders brainstorm new long-term disaster relief strategies

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MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Walton County Emergency Management is hosting the state’s largest community recovery tabletop session and the area’s first-ever meeting solely focused on long-term recovery after a disaster.

“There really hasn’t been an effort to look at recovery,” said Candy Nowling, executive director of Matric Community Outreach, said. “So we’re really looking at once your government and FEMA and all of those are pulling out of the county, what are we going to do to help our families get back to what we consider to be pre-storm, normal activities.”

More than 100 agencies were represented at the meeting. Teams strategizing key issues like economic recovery and redevelopment, social services, public health, infrastructure, restoration, and housing.

“This one being the largest, we’ve got folks from the state that are here, State Emergency Management, Department of Environmental Protection. We’ve got our debris monitoring company, our debris hauler, churches, non-profit agencies, county agencies, the Chamber and we’ve got a whole host of folks. And we’re looking at the recovery issues and how we’re going to revise our plans and update our plans,” Walton County Emergency Management Director Jeff Goldberg said.

In the event of a disaster, Candy Nowling also serves as the human services branch director for Walton County Emergency Management.

She says when the Category 5 hurricane hit last year, Walton County saw an influx of people coming from Bay County.

“We had single parents. We had grandparents that were taking care of grandchildren. At any given time, my particular agency had over 200 individuals that we were trying to service,” she said. “The area, of course, was devastated and so people were in need of housing, transportation, employment, childcare, all of those areas and so today, the Public Health and Social Service Group has really been trying to help focus on those areas and see how we as Walton County can improve on that, should we actually be impacted by a storm like Michael.”

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