In past hurricanes, desperate people made last-ditch calls to get rescued. Among the many missing after Hurricane Michael, I wonder if anyone made any last-minute calls for help from Mexico Beach.
“It looks like the surface was scraped up, put in a blender and then poured back out again.”
Imagine if you were one of the 285 people in Mexico Beach who defied mandatory evacuation orders and stayed behind.
What hell they must have gone through as winds of over 150 mph and a storm surge rose up to cover the houses to the roofs.
Dozens are still missing as rescue workers scour the town looking for life.
I think about those people who failed to evacuate. Did they call 911 at the last moment hoping for rescue?
Almost exactly 10 years ago, another hurricane, Ike, had devastated Galveston, Texas, and I was dispatched there as a media rep for the company that was removing debris.
As bad as the destruction was in Galveston, I was not prepared for what I saw on a little spit of land across the bay just east of Galveston, the Bolivar peninsula.
I was with a film crew when the first ferry allowed those with special passes to cross the bay to get to Bolivar.
As we drove east, the silence was deafening. Sand covered everything. Emergency workers had plowed the only narrow road on the island. Cars were buried nose down up to the windshield in the sand, and hardly a house remained. I wondered how high the water must have been.
We drove for miles and I stuck my Flip video (remember those?) out the window to document the destruction.
There were stories detailing the last minutes of a few residents who had decided to stay on Bolivar when the storm surge surrounded them.
Storm surges aren’t gradual. They rise up suddenly. One minute the water is down over there; the next, it’s upon you.
On Bolivar, people were heard making desperate, last-ditch calls for help.
Around 2 in the morning, a man called a 911 dispatcher to say he was going to try to drive to safety. Fifteen days after his last call, volunteers discovered his body a mile from where his truck was found.
A woman called a friend for help, her voice shaky with fear, saying the water was under her feet, and she could see propane tanks and other household items drifting by her windows.
Her friend told her to break into a newly built house next door that was higher and sturdier than her own. But the woman refused, saying she could not force her way into a neighbor’s house.
Her body was found tossed on a debris field in a marsh about 10 miles from her house.
Then there is the famous story of the sole survivor, a woman, from an apartment building during Hurricane Camille in Gulfport, Mississippi in 1969.
She said the water burst through the beach-side windows on the second floor, sweeping her and the other 23 people out the back windows.
According to her account, she clung to a log and was carried inland and then down the beach.
Some now say that’s not exactly true, but the lore persists.
Her story ends tragically. She went to prison for murdering her second husband. Her first drowned next to her during Camille.
I wonder if anyone made any last-minute calls for help from Mexico Beach.