Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas in the Belly of the Whale Hurricane Michael

Christmas in the Belly of the Whale Hurricane Michael

This was my bedroom at our townhouse before the storm. We heard that evacuation was Mandatory on Monday. We packed an overnight bag and left to stay with my sister and her husband in Dothan. Wednesday the storm happened and our life was changed. Below is our bedroom after the storm. You probably cannot see all of the mildew around the room. OR the fact that the carpet is drenched and the drywall full of water. Thank God my sweet neighbor rescued the quilt my mother made.

This is what it looks like now. This is my bedroom now and my clothes closet. 

When the remediation people (Serv Pro out of Mesquite Texas) came in they ripped out everything and put MOST of it in black bags. I went through the black bags. My grandmother's jewelry box and other jewelry is missing. They vow that they vet every employee. I dropped in frequently. As you know, I probably need another hip replacement and Joe has had three brain surgeries this year. There is no way he and I could make it up and down the three stories to move furniture and carry things up and down the stairs. We needed their help. Everyone said SERPRO was respected and to be trusted. Licensed and bonded?

My Acorn Chairlift did not work because the power had been out for weeks. Generators were the source of power to dehumidify the house. The Roof had a hole in it and the water and humidity caused lots of problems and that was the reason for our efforts at "mitigating" the damage. We found out that a national service like Serv Pro sets up in town and franchises from around the country come into the disaster zone. Serv Pro out of Alabama BWW, Inc. dab SERPRO of Birmingham was apparently in charge of distributing the different franchises out as the calls came in. We just happened to get the folks out of Mesquite Texas.

We thought it strange when the owner of the franchise told us we had to give them our credit card just for them to hold on file until the work was done. But, Treasure Island Marina has the same policy. I understood they would communicate with our insurance company about the charges, so on Oct. 21, I forwarded them all the information I had about our insurance company.  We called our credit card and told them to extend our credit to $25,000, the most, they assured us that this would cost and it was just to have on record, anyway. We did not know that BWW would go ahead and charge that amount. 

We did not know that until we got a notice from our medical insurance company that their automatic payment would not go through that they had immediately charged $25,000 to our card. Now remember, Joe has had three brain surgeries. We are serious about paying our insurance. 
I immediately went to our credit card statement and discovered that charge. 

The hurricane occurred on October 10, 2018. It took at least 10 days for us to get back into town to deal with any of this because of the debris in the streets. You must remember that 100,000 plus were affected by this storm. Competition was tough finding folks to cut the trees off homes and out of yards just to enable access to them. No restaurants were open. And then as they slowly one by one opened they were full of workers here from everywhere -- connecting electrical, pushing debris off the roads, cutting trees, stacking trees on the side of the road, working on the water supply. The marina was destroyed. 

The tree behind the gazebo started off on top of our house. Our sweet son, Drew, came over from Mobile and cut the tree off the house and put the tarp on for us. You would not believe the charges for cutting trees here! He and Brittany then built a fence around our back yard for us for protection and just to give us a little place out of the black and white world around us. 
 The picture on the right was our back deck. We could not go out the back door of our guest house. But, in spite of the holes in the roof, and the window that blew out spewing shattered glass into the rugs (had to be thrown out so grandchildren would not get glass in feet) and upholstered furniture (will have to go as well, shards of glass and mold).  And yet, inside this little house in spite of cupping floors and leaking roof, it is livable.

So, back to the SERV PRO story. I called and asked for an Invoice even though their work was not finished and they had left.

The Invoice was dated November 7 and the amount was $20,788.25. In other words, they had over charged us $4,211.75, according to their accounting. That money was not returned to us until I told them I had called the Florida Attorney General's office who told me to also alert the Texas Attorney General's office who told me to also call the Feds. I did so. The forms to fill out are in my drawer. When I finally called Mesquite Texas and spoke to the boss's wife, also a partner in the business, she put her husband on the phone and he apparently got in touch with BWW in Alabama who finally cut us a refund check and had it next day delivered to us on December 12.

Fortunately, I was able to call my credit card company and give them a check over the phone when I realized what had happened from our account (fortunately we had sold some timber and had some funds there). I called our medical insurance folks and they resubmitted their charges. Our credit card company covered our medical insurance accounts.

I have been going through the black bags in which SERVPRO stuck all that was in my closet. The clothes in most of the bags were mildewed, etc. so I listed them for the claims. They even emptied the drawers in all of my other furniture that was not damaged, AND only had to be shifted so that they could do the other work.

I could not find my grandmother's jewelry box and other jewelry that was on a shelf in the closet. This is all I found in those black bags relating to my jewelry.

The box on the left once held my three strand pearl bracelet with the emerald clasp, an anniversary present. The one on the right held my gold necklace with the gold shell slide, also a gift. I asked the guy in Mesquite about their claim to have vetted all of their employees. I said, "Then who was the guy with the tattoos up his neck." "We employ a lot of people. You can't expect me to remember every one!" That ought to tell us something. 

I am sure I haven't remembered all that is lost. Like my turquoise necklace I just remembered.

We are blessed. We had resources. If you do not have money to get the ball rolling you get put to the back of the line because those others are also needing the same services you do -- tree cutting, an electrician to repair the mast that got messed up when the tree fell onto your house, a bobcat to move all the debris on your yard to a place where one of those services that pick up heavy logs and limbs can eventually pick up the debris.

All the while you are trying to talk to your insurance company to get the help you need. Ironically they tell you to file online. Do they not know that THERE IS NO INTERNET SERVICE! YET! AND IT IS DECEMBER 22. That means there is no cable, landlines for telephone, cell towers are down so there is frequently no cell reception. For weeks you could not drink the water, it had to be boiled. The power company was cheered when it finally arrived. You cannot call your doctor because his landline is down. You must go by their office to see if they are open or if they have moved. Many have moved. Some across the bridge to the Beach which suffered little or no damage, believe it or not!! Our beautiful canopy of trees all over Panama City is gone. They are now cut up into little pieces and build a wall on the side of the road that it takes trucks days to pick up because those double trucks must balance the weight to make sure they are safely loaded. And they cannot pick up under some power lines.

These are some pictures from our area. The Cove was hard hit. The first picture is from Nantucket right across the street from our townhouse.

These three were taken on our roof by Drew. That red spot below is the She Shack, also damaged by the storm. 

I think this is across the street.

So many have lost their homes, apartments, etc. that Want Ads are everywhere. Help Wanted.

 And so, here we live, until our General Contractor can get to our townhouse. We bought this home when a friend from whom Drew was renting decided to sell. We are very comfortable here. If you come in and close the door, you don't really think of the dystopian world outside the door.

So, this Christmas at Mimi's will be quite different. I could not find my ornaments and actually surprised myself with wanting to do any decorating (putting up a tree). But then I encountered my friend, Jan Rascoe at Lowe's. Her husband, Steve, was pastor at the First Methodist Church who died suddenly about two weeks ago. He had worked so hard helping others his big heart just gave out. I figured he neglected his own needs while helping others. They buried him with a beard he said he would not cut until everyone had their power restored. I enveloped Jan in a hug when I saw her. I asked what she was coming to Lowes for and she said, "I need something bright, something colorful." Bless her heart. Hallmark Flower Shop was closed because of damage. As were many others. I had not thought of the wonderful uplift flowers can provide to those who are hurting. Another friend was with her. She said she had lost everything.

I have not lost everything. I still have my sweet husband. Would I be a half empty person or a half full person? God's blessings were all around me.

So up went the tree I found in the She Shack that I decorated with stuffed animals that were also there.

Okay, so I like to squeeze their little hands and listen to the music. 

Cecily has the mitigation folks at her house (she, Lily and Steve stayed in their home during the storm, believe it or not). Cecily and Lily went to Dothan soon after. No power (air-conditioning, lights, etc.), no TV, no Internet and boiling water sent them out of THE ZONE.

Steve stayed. He is a dedicated rural mail carrier and was determined that those who needed their medications on his route would get them. He has such a good heart and has a relationship with those he serves, checking up on them, etc. His home was open to those who had less -- to take showers, a nap. They are only now getting their home seen about. Since their insurance has been less than helpful (State Farm) they are hiring an independent adjuster and hiring an attorney to represent them. Cecily is dependent on Insulin. About $12,000 worth of life saving medications were lost when the power went out. The insurance company plans to give them $60. She has so many conditions that are life-threatening. You can imagine what black mold would do to her. Can you believe this?

I would like to know what good your insurance agent is if all he does is sell the product but does not advocate for his insured!

But, back to the important things. Drew, Brittany, George and Sam will spend the night with us. Brooke, Mike, Megan and Molly will come for the day and then go home. Cecily, Steve and Lily are here and will join us as well. 

This is my Christmas menu. If you haven't been to "Eat Here" that is the old Jimmy's. that became Sue's on 6th Street but is now Country Cooking but Country Cooking blew away and now all you have is Eat Here. Go in and say hello to Donna and Sherry. Mr. Robertson may be in there. He came here after the storm because he had a friend whose ex wife lived in the middle of the storm. He has a bobcat and is a master with the saw. His purpose was to come here and help folks recover. He is staying down the street with his friend's ex wife and her family. She is a nurse with a heart as big as all outdoors. He came from Mississippi.  

Christmas at Mimi’s a la Hurricane Michael

Turkey Breast
Standing Roast Beef

Nanny and Paw Paw Gravy
Green Beans, New Potatoes, Corn on the Cob cooked together

Green Bean Casserole           Brooke
Macaroni and Cheese             Brittany
Hash Brown casserole            Cecily

Eat Here Pick up
Sweet Potato Casserole
Squash Casserole
Chicken and Dumplings

Cranberry Sauce
Ambrosia (oranges, grapefruit, cherries)
Strawberry Shortcake (George’s favorite)
Seven layer chocolate cake (Brooke is bringing)
Apricot Delight Salad (once Daddy's favorite)

Butter rolls

Tea and Lemonade


This year became a year for books, things I could order off of Amazon. 

Drew told me about an event that occurred at his shop (he builds furniture now, Azalea Home Furnishings, in Mobile. A gifted Carpenter. He has a Masters in Operations Management, but found his bliss building things). His helper came to him and said, "There's somebody at the door you need to speak to." There he met  a woman who said to him, "I am so sorry to bother you. A friend gave me a ride to a church because I needed to ask for help to get my car fixed. I have had surgery and am still recovering. I thought I could walk home, but I just cannot make it. Could you please give me a ride?"

Drew said, "I remembered the story I heard once of the shoemaker who lived alone with a window onto a busy street. He saw an angel who told him, 'Jesus is coming to see you tomorrow.'"

I remembered vividly the rest of the story. I had read it to them frequently.

During the day, the shoemaker had several visitors all of whom he gave a pair of shoes. 
That night, he sat alone, once more and as he nodded off he said to himself, "Jesus was supposed to come today."

The angel came once more and said, "He did. He was the mother whose child had no shoes and you gave her the shoes you had made for your own child." He was the....j
Needless to say, Drew gave the lady a ride.

Tears came to my own eyes when he told me that. Drew was the little boy who climbed over me and under me while I held Brooke in my arms and Cecily read along over my shoulder. He DID hear. 

All five of my grandchildren will get the book, Papa Panov's Special Day, along with other books that I have ordered using my iPhone Hot Spot because the INTERNET REMAINS DOWN. 

In the midst of this I do remember the reason for the season. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby, a human being and experienced all of our pain upon the Cross. He was born for me. He died for me. And you. 

My Presbyterian Church had the roof blown off. It is destroyed. Earlier deacons had decided $40,000 a year for wind insurance was too much. How can you help people and save money? They did manage to saved $1,000,000 in reserve. $750,000 has already been spent for mitigation. Where to go from here? For the moment we meet at the Church for the Seventh Day Adventists who are sharing their facility with us. 

A friend had the entire back of her house blown off. She, her son, her granddaughter were in the house. Their ears popped and her son yelled, "to the hall!" they looked up to see the roof blow off. All the antiques that had meant so much are destroyed. "Suddenly," she said, "those things that had meant so much really don't matter, anymore. We are all alive." She will build a new house on the lot. But for now, she is also homeless. Living in a condo until her home can be built. Fortunately, she has insurance. 

"All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purposes." Even a Hurricane.

 God bless us every one.  

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Hurricane Michael Refugee Panama City

We are refugees from Michael, a situation one never envisions for oneself. Monday of last week, October 8, I had plans to get my hair done, play bridge at the Yacht Club and attend the St. Andrew Bay Yacht Club Ladies Auxiliary on Thursday. However, we heard that there was a mandatory evacuation called for 6 am the next morning. I packed us a change of clothes and Joe and I headed for Dothan to stay with my sister Sylvia and her husband Tom who have a beautiful home with plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms. We brought Gigi, our standard poodle, with us. Sylvia has two little schnauzers who are aged and delicate, so we took Gigi to Westwood Pet Care. 
Hoping daughter Cecily, her husband Steve, and daughter Lily would be coming close behind, we left daughter Brooke's home in Dothan free for them.

We weathered the storm with Sylvia and Tom with trees falling all around us in Spann Farm. Cecily et. al refused to leave their home. Fortunately, Camryn's Crossing had little damage, just a bit of the roof.  It is now Saturday. They finally have come north to Dothan and Brooke and Mike's home. For how long, there is no telling. There still is no power and they must boil water and cannot flush commodes because the sewage is backing up in Panama City.

Thursday night we got a call from dear friends of ours, Gary and Karen and Gary's daughter, Marion.  They had gotten scammed on a room in Marianna. They had left Karen's son with whom they had weathered the storm in Mobile, at 11:00 and after a long day on the road (Gary is still recuperating from a stroke that has left him partially paralyzed on his right side) they gave us a call. They had gotten to Marianna and Karen went in to the totally black reception room to ask about their reservation. They were told no one there made reservations. The power was out. They had nowhere to go. So, my sweet sister and brother-in-law invited them there. Marion was frazzled. She not only had her Daddy about whom she was concerned, she also had her three little poodles in the same delicate condition as Sylvia's schnauzers. They finally found their way to Sylvia's and we all settled in to an exhausted sleep. 

After the storm, everyone wanted to go to Panama City. Joe and I needed to see what had happened to our guest house and townhouse. But, with my arthritis, I realized I would not be much good doing all the walking and carrying that might be necessary, so we called our son in Mobile, who has become quite a gifted carpenter and we met him in Crestview.  Joe joined him in his truck with tarp, chain saw, wood, etc. and I went on to Mobile and Brittany and the boys while they went to Panama City to deal with whatever needed to be dealt with. 

Sylvia and Tom headed to Harbour Village to find their Beach Home, a condo on the top floor, drenched and a wall out. 

These are the pictures Drew and Joe took of the Cove and Panama City. 

This is our church, First Presbyterian, missing a roof. 

Episcopal Church on Beach Drive

That may be the brick side of the Woman's Club

I think this is Cove Boulevard. No longer is there that beautiful oak canopy.

 This is St. Andrews looking North beside Harbour Village where Sylvia and Tom had just moved into their new place at Harbour Village. They lost the roof and had lots of damage.

Harbour Village

Oaks by the Bay to the right

Beach Drive?

Cove Boulevard?

Side of the Woman's Club on Cove Boulevard and 4th Street

Cove Boulevard?

First Presbyterian Church Downtown Panama City. This is our church.


Cove Boulevard

Woman's Club on the corner of Cove Boulevard and 6th

Cove Boulevard

St. Andrew Bay Yacht Club

Our Guesthouse

Our home (town home)

We were amazingly blessed that so many of the things that were my mother's and father's survived. As did my portraits!

This is the view from the top deck. That is Gary Hein's sailboat sitting pretty there. I am not so sure about their house. I hope Roz and Gary left!

This is Nantucket up the hill from our townhouses.

Downstairs library

So far so good. But it will be a long time sitting with wet carpet in there. And we cannot get in to move anything out. 

Joe's mother's china cabinet. 

It is amazing to see the things that remained unmoved in our townhouse right next to a really big mess. Wind, rain and tree limbs. 

But you can't hurry. Now Panama City is still getting the basics repaired and the roads cleared so that we can begin rebuilding. 

But the truth is we are so very blessed. We have our family intact and had a wonderful visit with my family in Dothan. And now we are comfortably ensconced in Mobile with our son and daughter-in-law and two grandsons. Drew and Joe will return to Panama City. Our son will put us at the top of his work list. Our Insurance will help us rebuild the townhouse and repair the guesthouse. Our dog plays happily with Brooke and Mike, Cecily (who finally came North) and the granddaughters are safe. Our neighbors guard our spot while we are not there and we will all rebuild. One neighbor is a retired veteran and policeman with a supply of defense devices (guns). We have heard there are looters in the neighborhood, believe it or not.

It is Saturday. I had to buy some clothes today because I only planned to be gone overnight. I saw an old friend from Dothan at the Dillards in Panama City.

Our son-in-law, Steve, is back to work as a mail carrier. They are in to work today, Sunday, delivering medicines.

Joe and I are together. Our children are safe. We have air-conditioning and even cable with Drew in Mobile and with Sylvia in Dothan.

God is good.