I’m in Panama City now heading to St Joe Beach. I will edit this later with updates. The scope of the damage is not done justice by pictures. It’s taking my breath away!
Edit: Just a quick update yesterday was a 15 hour day + emotionally draining, I will do a write up with some pics of what I saw both coastal & inland this evening after work.
Going to make this as brief as I can, 9 days after landfall:
My Route over was 98E to Callaway, Hwy 22 to Wewahitchka, Hwy 386 to Mexico Beach, 98E to Port St Joe. On the way back we also drove Hwy 231, Hwy 2301, Hwy 20, Hwy 79.
I've seen the wind damage from Andrew and the Surge impact from Katrina. Michael while maybe not as great, has both ( I did not view Tyndall or the West end of Mexico Beach)! The 3 most stunning things to me were the area of damage, the damage in Panama City, & the forest damage. I saw a small area of damage relatively speaking, regardless it was immense! Inland areas that I saw on the route have severe damage and aren't getting the attention they need. Panama city was stunning with the amount of structural damage sustained. I can only describe it as looking more like what I would consider tornadic damage rather than the usual Hurricane damage. The traffic is horrific as you can imagine. The forest damage is hard to fathom. Massive trees snapped like match sticks. Almost all hardwoods & even some pines are defoliated. A good bit of debarking in areas but not widespread (remember I didn't go to the AFB or MB). Power poles snapped like a small twigs. Wewahitchka some 25 miles inland has tremendous damage. Power seemed to be out in almost all areas. on the way home it was eerie to be in the heart of PC with darkness. At my Wife's cousin's house and in her neighborhood (St Joe Beach 2 blocks N of 98) the damage as you can imagine was overwhelming. A couple takeaways were the American Red Cross vehicle which looked like an Ice Cream Truck in shape slowly going down the road while a lady was saying "ARC hot meals, ARC we have hot meals" as people came from homes and yards and then slowly retreated. The other was when Beth (Cousin) showed me a lot of tiny mud splatters on curtains, table, inside window, from wind so powerful that it came in thru a closed and locked window that was never compromised. I could go on and on but said I would make it as short as possible. If you have any questions please feel free to ask & I will answer as best as I can. Here are a few pics we took (The forest pic from the air is not ours).
Edit: I did want to add a version of the story by family who rode it out:
Their initial thought of staying was @ 16.5 feet elevation, surge wasn't going to be an issue and 100-115 mph winds would be doable. They woke up after a restless night of sleep checked the storm and decided it might be best to go. While gathering items they were informed 98 was over washing in areas and they likely couldn't make it out. They didn't go into great detail about the ride out (I suspect it's to fresh & traumatic now) but here is what they said. Initial wind was out of the E and about 12:00 pm EDT (Gulf county/Bay county divides E&C time zone) it started getting pretty bad. They moved to a closet on the W side of the house. By 1:15 the wind had shifted to the S and was they felt like the eyewall had arrived. They migrated to an interior bathroom (a quick look out a window showed nothing but a sheet of grey). For the next 2 hours they waited in without speaking a word for the eye which never came while praying and wondering if they would survive. During this time they lost 3 windows, heard objects from outside pummeling the house, had had water (rain) invade from places they didn't think possible. The wind switched to a SW & finally to the W. By 3:00 pm EDT the worst was over. They were able to leave the bathroom and asses the inside of the house. About an hour later they were able to get outside and another round of shock began to set in.