Hurricane Michael: ‘Worst Storm Ever to Hit Florida Panhandle’

October 11, 2018

Damaged buildings and a flooded street are seen after hurricane Michael passed through the downtown area on October 10, 2018 in

© Joe Raedle / Staff - Getty Images News

Damaged buildings and a flooded street are seen after hurricane Michael passed through the downtown area on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida.

Hurricane Michael pummeled parts of Florida’s Panhandle Wednesday as a strong Category 4 storm, leaving a long  200-mile trail of destruction that ripped off roofs and submerged neighborhoods in water. More than 375,000 residents who live in the Panhandle were warned to evacuate, and many will soon return to fully assess the damages to their homes and businesses.

“We’re Floridians—we know that disasters can happen at any time,” says Christine Hansen, Florida REALTORS®’ president. “We want our Panhandle REALTOR® family to know that our hearts go out to them, and we’re here to help.” The association says it is standing by to offer financial assistance or other support as members start expressing their needs.

 

Michael made landfall Wednesday afternoon with 150 mph winds. “Hurricane Michael is the worst storm that the Florida Panhandle has ever seen,” says Gov. Rick Scott of Florida.

The Panhandle area includes a greater concentration of older homes and mobile homes than the rest of the state, which could cause the damage to be even more extensive, reports the Naples Daily News. More than 145,000 homes in Michael’s path were built prior to 2000. That is before Florida initiated some of the nation’s toughest building codes to better protect homes against hurricanes and storms. In areas like Liberty County, nearly 45 percent of the occupied residents in Michael’s path live in mobile homes, which are even more vulnerable to strong winds since they are not anchored to the ground as well.

“Your older structures, prior to 2002, are not going to fare as well as the structures that were built since the Florida building codes went into affect," Jeremy Stewart, past president of the Florida Home Builders Association, told the Naples Daily News.

Mortgage financing giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae issued disaster relief to homeowners affected by the hurricane. Homeowners with loans backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae and who had their homes or places of employment damaged by Hurricane Michael may be eligible for federal individual assistance programs. The programs include forbearance to suspend foreclosures for up to 12 months or waiving assessments of penalties or late fees against borrowers in damaged homes.

“Safety is our top priority for those in the Florida panhandle and nearby states,” says Yvette Gilmore, Freddie Mac’s vice president of single-family servicer performance management. “Once safe from this dangerous storm, we strongly encourage homeowners whose homes or places of employment have been impacted by Hurricane Michael to call their mortgage servicer—the company to which borrowers send their monthly mortgage payments—to learn about available relief options. We stand ready to ensure that mortgage relief is made available.”