A transition took place Tuesday that signaled another step, however small, in the recovery of Gulf County from Hurricane Michael.
As the county moved response to recovery, the “Oregon Green Team,” a group from that Pacific Northwest state which assumed the role of incident command during the days immediately following Michael’s arrival two weeks ago, signed off and headed home.
Their roles were assumed by another team from outside the county, but the change in the guard, to a standing ovation Tuesday in a county meeting room, spotlighted, as county attorney Jeremy Novak said, that “every day is a little better.”
Les Hallman of the Green Team noted that one of the key reasons for the progress in the county would be reflected by holding a mirror up to the citizenry.
“You are so far ahead because of the people helping each other,” Hallman said. “It was truly a team effort.”
As of Tuesday, as the Board of County Commissioners took stock two weeks after Michael, there remained just 50 people in shelters, either Oak Grove Church or the Honeyville Community Center.
The county’s damage assessment found 1,146 homes completely destroyed, 1,826 homes sustained major damage and 3,524 sustained what is considered minor damage.
That is 6,496 homes impacted by Michael, either by storm surge, winds or both.
As for electricity, Duke Energy expected to energize the lines going to St. Joe Beach Wednesday with work on Beacon Hill following.
In those areas, as with sections of Port St. Joe, extensive infrastructure had to be replaced.
Duke Energy is reporting that it has 100 percent of its grid online and is working with businesses and residents to bring power to all: the Port St. Joe downtown business district had power as of Monday.
Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative, on the north end of the county, reported that 64 percent of its customers had power as of Tuesday morning.
The city of Port St. Joe has been producing water since the day following the storm and also has sewer online; restoring service to White City and St. Joseph Peninsula is held up due to other factors.
On the peninsula, the city is encountering the same issues as Lighthouse Utilities.
Both are awaiting the Florida Department of Transportation’s plan for repairing and replacing Cape San Blas Road.
Jay Rish, owner of Lighthouse Utilities, said a mile-plus line was breached and the utility and its engineers are preparing the repairs to move as fast as possible once the FDOT makes its decision.
Customers south of the Stump Hole, in Indian Pass and Cape San Blas, have water; those north of the Stump Hole do not.
Rish said contrary to rumors he did not expect the timeline for getting water to homes north of the Stump Hole rock revetment to take two months, but more a matter of weeks or days.
“We have the governor’s ear,” Rish said, noting a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott last week.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity held a meeting last week with some 100 impacted business owners sketching out the recovery issues.
Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf is open and physicians around the county are seeing patients again and pharmacies are open, said Sarah Hinds, administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Gulf County.
“We’re going to have a tough couple of years,” said County Administrator Michael Hammond. “We will get through it.
“We are far beyond what I would have imagined and it is because of the work of the people. I couldn’t be more proud of the people of this county.”