FLORIDA – Forest Service employees in the Florida Panhandle returned to their homes and workplaces this week to see, firsthand, the damage caused on October 10 by Category 4 Hurricane Michael. Michael pelted the coast with 155 mph winds, causing high storm surges, heavy rain and flash floods, 17 tornadoes, downed trees and saturated soils from the point of impact onward through a path that crossed 7 states.
While the Apalachicola National Forest sustained the most damage, all employees working there have checked in and are uninjured, as well as at the Tallahassee Supervisor’s Office for the National Forests in Florida.
“All employees are safe,” Forest Supervisor Kelly Russell said. “Some endured damage to their homes and vehicles, but everyone is in good spirits and working to help each other however they can.”
Employees and residents of impacted areas continue to deal with power loss, water outages, and lack of access to cell service and gasoline. Over one million customers lost power after the storm.
“We appreciate all of the offers of help,” Russell said. “We are now starting the recovery phase and will be doing assessments shortly. The safety of employees and the public are the priorities, so we will be deliberate, moving forward but not rushing to open areas until we are able to assess them and ensure they are safe.”
The Apalachicola National Forest remains closed to visitors, but employees have returned to work to begin clearing roads and cleaning up facilities. Hurricane impacts to natural and cultural resources, recreation areas, and infrastructure are being assessed.
The Forest Service continues to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency by providing personnel and resources for a variety of post-hurricane needs, including law enforcement officers to provide security, helibase managers for aerial resources, and incident management teams to manage Federal responder base camps.