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Cities’ Spirits Remain Strong in the Wake of Hurricane Michael

November 6, 2018
This article appeared in the November 2018 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
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A Donalsonville welcome sign exemplifies the spirit of Georgia cities affected by Hurricane Michael—damaged, but still standing strong.

H urricane Michael, a category 4 hurricane when it made landfall on the Florida pan­handle on Oct. 10, moved into Southwest Georgia as a category 3 hurricane—the first time in 120 years a storm of that force has hit Southwest Georgia. In its aftermath, Mi­chael left one dead in Georgia, hundreds of thousands without power or water, farmers’ crops destroyed and tons of debris. Despite the destruction, communities are showing how resilient they are.
 
“Hurricane Michael hit Donalsonville and Seminole County with a direct hit. Sustained winds of 115 mph with gusts even higher,” Donalsonville Mayor Dan Ponder posted on Facebook. “It is heartbreaking to see what has happened to this place we call home.”
 
“However, it is heartwarming to see the community pull together. There are so many examples of people helping people, friends and strangers alike,” Ponder contin­ued. “There are thousands of pictures but none of them adequately tell the story of this storm’s unprecedented power and fury. We are rewriting the book with this one. We will have new heroes and stories we can share for generations. It will take time, but I have seen the raw strength and faith of the citizens of this community at its darkest hour and it is strong.”
 
In Bainbridge, residents and businesses quickly adopted the “Bainbridge Strong” tag. While emergency management agencies worked to clear roads and organize supplies and resources, neighbors helped neighbors and businesses strove to reopen as quickly as possible.
 
A glimpse into the destruction caused by Hurricane Michael last month.
“October 10, 2018 is a day that Bainbridge will never forget,” said City Manager Chris Hobby. “Hurricane Michael roared into town as a Category 3 hurricane and changed the landscape of our com­munity forever. The storm destroyed majestic oaks and damaged homes, but it also revealed the true character of Bainbridge,” Hobby shared with pride. “It brought out the very best in us even when we were all so shocked and shaken. City, county and state agencies worked together flawlessly just as they are supposed to, but more than that, the commu­nity worked. People helped one another, friends and strangers alike. The fury of nature can be awesome, but the spirit and resilience shown by our commu­nity is even more awesome. ‘Bainbridge Strong’ isn’t just a hashtag on Twitter, I’ve seen it up close, and it’s real.”
 
Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Michael’s arrival in Georgia, and President Trump later approved a federal disas­ter declaration for several Southwest Georgia coun­ties. The declaration makes federal funding available to individuals in Baker, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Miller, Seminole, Crisp, Grady, Lee, Mitchell, Terrell, Thomas and Worth counties.
 
Gov. Deal also called for a special legislative ses­sion of the General Assembly on Nov. 13 to “take immediate action and lead the way in spurring rapid economic recovery for southwest Georgia communi­ties.”
 
“I hope to work quickly with the General Assem­bly in the coming days to provide support to the Georgia communities that need it most,” he shared in a press release.
 
Federal assistance for individuals can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
 
Federal funding is also available to eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organi­zations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in the counties of Baker, Bleckley, Burke, Calhoun, Colquitt, Crisp, Decatur, Dodge, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Emanuel, Grady, Houston, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Laurens, Lee, Macon, Miller, Mitchell, Pu­laski, Seminole, Sumter, Terrell, Thomas, Treutlen, Turner, Wilcox and Worth.
 
Vice President Mike Pence visited the area to see the damage to Georgia’s agricultural community first-hand. Georgia’s pecan, peanut and cotton loss is estimated to be more than $1 billion.
 
“In Decatur County alone, Georgia farmers and producers lost up to 70 percent of their fall vegeta­bles, 90 percent of the sweet corn, 95 percent of the unharvested cotton crop, 95 percent of poultry and 100 percent of the pecan crop,” said Pence.
 
“Our administration will continue to deploy the man power and resources of the federal govern­ment to this region and to these communities until you come all the way back,” he added.
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