The year’s most powerful storm, Hurricane Michael, struck the northwest coast of Florida on October 10. Heavy rain and strong winds caused major damage and led to at least 35 deaths. Whitley Russ, age 13, was at her sister’s house in Panama City, Florida, with her two sisters and her aunt. The house was not in an area where people had been told to leave. Whitley recalls when the storm hit.
“It happened quickly. Our air-conditioning unit came flying out of the living room window. Pieces of broken glass were scattered around it on the floor. That’s when I got really scared.
We heard the rain pounding down. We quickly grabbed some food and water and ran to the safest part of the house, the bathroom. The roof over the living room was shaking. Seconds later, it caved in.
Wind and rain came crashing in. My aunt slammed the bathroom door shut and we huddled together. For the next hour, I could hear glass shattering in the kitchen and living room. The wind was howling all around us. I kept thinking, “I just want to be safe.”
Finally, the shattering stopped. But we waited another hour before leaving the bathroom. I couldn’t believe my eyes. A tree lay where the living room used to be. Walls had been ripped out from the side of the house. Shelves and furniture had been lifted off the ground and had landed, soaking wet, around the yard.
Hurricane Michael had destroyed my sister’s home. But by sticking together, we survived the storm.”