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One year after Hurricane Michael, it's a "new normal" for Florida residents

Hurricane Michael, one year later
One year after Hurricane Michael, a "new normal" for residents in Florida 03:19

One year ago, Hurricane Michael blew away homes and businesses in parts of Florida. The deadly storm barreled into the Florida Panhandle with wind speeds of more than 150 mph. The hurricane is blamed for 16 deaths and about $25 billion of damage in the U.S.

CBS News revisited Mexico Beach, Florida, the town the Category 5 storm hit the hardest. A year later, reminders of the deadly storm are everywhere. You can still see some destroyed buildings have barely been touched, reports CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez. But nearby there are signs of new life and rebuilding – though they still lack some of the basics.  

To this day, Mexico Beach does not have a gas station, a bank, or even a grocery store.

Al Cathey runs the local hardware store and has been mayor here for 15 years.
"When 75 percent of your city is destroyed, things aren't gonna happen quickly in a year," Cathey said.
There is clearly progress, but people say insurance payouts have been slow and dealing with government red tape is frustrating. While 1,200 lived here before the storm, now it's just around 400.

"It's been a lot of lows in the very beginning. The last six months, we got a little click in our heels," Cathey said.

But in nearby Panama City, hundreds still live in FEMA trailer parks, more than 2,400 Bay District school kids are listed as displaced or homeless, and Tyndall Air Force Base, a major employer, has spent $700 million on repairs but still has more to do.

Trudy White and her husband relocated to Florida after losing everything in Hurricane Katrina. Their Cajun restaurant on Panama City Beach avoided a direct hit from Michael, but many of her employees were not so lucky. White said keeping the employees has been the biggest hurdle for their business.
"A lot people lost their homes in town and had to move away because they didn't have any place to live. The people who were able to stay – looking for a new place to live – the rent went sky high for everybody," she said.

Back on Mexico Beach, Jessica Schwark is general manager at Mango Marley's, which is still operating out of a food truck. But she said the tide here has begun to turn.
"When I would see people at first we would cry and hug… It's still nice to see them but it's a little more normal. It's sad, but this is kind of just our new normal," Schwark said, adding, "Most days we don't even think about the hurricane, really."

Even with some progress, there's clearly a long way to go. Before Hurricane Michael, between condos, apartments and houses, there were 2,700 units in Mexico Beach. Right now barely 500 are livable.

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