Hurricane Michael hit Panama City, Florida, in October 2018. Almost two years later, the recovery work is still ongoing and helping hands are much-needed.
A new home after the hurricane
In the course of just a few months right after Hurricane Michael, Janeen had lost everything. Now she sees a light at the end of the tunnel - a new home.
In 2018, Janeen lived in an apartment in Panama City, facing busy days working as a director for an early education and care program. She got up in the morning, had breakfast, sat in her car and drove to work. Normal life. Everyday life. Until those devastating days in October the same year.
Being a resident of the Gulf Coast, Janeen had lived through hurricanes before.
“Days before Michael struck it was just a Category 1 on the (Saffir-Simpson) scale*. Then it moved up to a 3. I mean, I’ve been through a 3. I can handle a 3,” says Janeen.
But Hurricane Michael made it up to a 5 on the scale just before it hit the coast, and Janeen’s apartment was struck hard. In the following days, she more or less lived in her car, even though that too had been hit by the winds and water – and a falling tree.
“I prayed to God to keep me safe. I tried to remember what my mother always said: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. There is a strength in this community as well, we always rise,” she says.
Since the hurricane, Janeen has been living in a temporary home. A while back she learned that she could be eligible for homeownership through Habitat for Humanity, working with volunteer builders, among them Volvo CE employees. As a part of a partnership with Habitat, homeowners invest their sweat equity, helping construct their homes they purchase through affordable mortgages. When we visited Janeen, her new home was in its initial phase, but even a foundation and a piece of land was enough for her to have faith and see a bright future ahead. Hurricanes may come along again, but Janeen feels confident her home, built to withstand hurricanes, will enable her to stay in her beloved hometown.
“What Habitat for Humanity and the volunteers do is just wonderful. They are not a handout, they are a hand up. They give you hope that you can own something,” she says.
* The Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale classifies hurricanes – Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms -- into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds. Hurricane Michael reached 160 mph (260 km/h) and was a number five on the scale.
Source: The National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center
A steady 43 years in the same area; until hurricanes Irma and Michael paid a visit. Karen and her mother Irene can now look forward to moving into that same neighborhood again.