The 57-year-old man said growing up in Puerto Rico taught him how to survive a storm.
Mexico Beach, Florida – Tom Garcia watched in horror as the water began to enter the beach and flood his house.
His wife gave him a drill and Garcia used screws to secure the front and back doors. But soon Michael’s storm surge came to his chest. His dogs settled on the bed while it floated.
He said he used all his strength to keep his sliding door closed while the waters outside rose higher than those that flooded his house.
“It was life or death,” Garcia said on Friday as he walked in the middle of the destruction left by the hurricane in Mexico Beach.
Michael was one of the most powerful hurricanes to touch land in the United States, and this coastal community of barely a thousand inhabitants was in his sights on Wednesday. Although most of the villagers evacuated before the storm arrived, others stayed and faced the hurricane.
The houses were destroyed, the neighborhoods were submerged and the debris flew through the air.
His mobile home was not on the beach. But the canal behind his house full of boat docks overflowed while the hurricane was present. Soon, Morales said, his house began to float.
“The water came so fast that it started going in everywhere,” he said sitting outside on a broken ladder over a mattress and other debris. “I had about 3 feet (almost one meter) of water in my house. That’s when I decided to jump. ”
He left through a window in his house to the roof of his car. It was then that he saw two of his neighbors wade through the flood. He swam and clung to a pole. Then he extended his arms to help the couple to hold on. Together they advanced to a fishing boat that had been tied to a palm tree and got into it.
Morales left his neighbors in a bathroom under the boat deck and he stayed in the captain’s seat. He said they were in the boat for six hours until the winds calmed and the waters dropped.
“I lost everything: my clothes, my wallet, credit cards,” he said. “But I did it.”
Bill Shockey, 86, refused when his daughter begged him to leave Mexico Beach. He said he did not want to leave behind his collection of “Gone with the Wind” dishes and old dolls. So he put those objects on top of a closet and then went to his daughter’s newly built two-level house, located on the side.
With some cigars in his pocket and his cat Andy, Shockey saw the arrival of the hurricane from a bedroom upstairs. The wind ripped the roof of his house from one level. The water reached almost to the top of his garage door. The house of one of its neighbors was torn from the foundations.
I was scared? “Rather, worried, I would say,” said Shockey.
His daughter’s house was flooded in the lower level, but apart from that it was not damaged. To the house of Shockey, with 24 years of antiquity, it did not do so well. But his collectibles were saved.
“It was devastating,” he said, adding that he plans to sell the property instead of rebuilding. “When they want, I’ll move with my son to Georgia.”
Although García and his wife survived the fury of the hurricane, on Friday he had gone out to look for his daughter and his mother. Kristen Garcia, 32, and her 90-year-old grandmother, Jadwiga Garcia, took refuge in a second-level apartment on the beach on Wednesday when the storm came.
Garcia said her daughter called him to say that the apartment was flooding and that they had taken refuge in the bathroom. He has not seen them in the two days that have passed since the storm, and he has not been able to enter the apartment.
He had tears in his eyes when he remembered his last conversation.
“He told me: ‘Papa, come,'” Garcia said. “I said, ‘It’s too late.'”
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