What Michael took along the coast Duke Energy and volunteers plan to begin restoring Saturday as a partnership between the utility and city of Mexico Beach to restore native habitat begins.

Over four hours, 8 a.m. until 12 noon CT, beginning near Forgotten Coast Realty, volunteers, by the hundreds according to Duke, will begin planting 15,000 sea oats along Mexico Beach.

Just in time for the first day of hurricane season.

Sea oats are the primal vegetation for dune growth and stability along shorelines.

They protect sand dunes that are susceptible to beach erosion and are an important component of coastal sand dune and beach environments.

Sea oats promote sand dune growth, stabilize dunes, and help protect dunes from damage due to high winds, storm surges and tides.

As the Florida Department of Environmental Protection undertakes restoration of dunes lost in T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, the effort begins with vegetation, primarily sea oats, scientists said during a recent town hall meeting.

Sea oats also provides habitat and food for birds, small animals and insects.

And Duke has something of a track record with planting sea oats.

Duke Energy employee volunteers have planted sea oats in Franklin County the past two years.

After Michael, a check of areas that had been planted showed the sea oats did their job, with a noticeable difference in erosion compared to areas where no planting had occurred, according to a press release.

Saturday’s effort is just a starting off point to help restore the shoreline that was, literally, in the eye of a Category 5 storm carrying 160 mph winds.

During the coming months, Mexico Beach, with support from Duke Energy, will be adding new landscaping to city parks using native plants to attract pollinators and help restore the natural environment, according to a press release.

There are road closures in the area that impact access.