Continuing to recover from Hurricane Michael

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It's been just over four months since hurricane Michael struck the panhandle of Florida, and this same area has just been hit by several tornadoes on Sunday March 3.

For an area that just can't catch a break with the weather, Chief Meteorologist Chris Smith with our sister station WJHG in Panama City to talk to us about the recovery since the storm.
So tell us about the rebuilding process.

"Honestly it's been very slow. We're still pretty much in debris removal mode. Getting trees cut up, things of that nature. As far as progress on people's homes, most people have not seen a lot of progress. Unfortunately, but it's going to be a slow process. You know Mexico beach just got everything cleared away for people to actually apply for building permits so that was a big thing down there."

How widespread was the damage, because a lot of inland areas were hit harder than many beaches?
"From the coast, inland, you had let's say EF-3 tornado damage move through an area that was about 30-40 miles wide, move from the coast, basically through Georgia and Alabama, let's say about 100 miles distance, that's completely devastating. Even though it's not a densely populated area, that's a lot of people impacted and it's going to take a long time."

With spring and summer approaching, are the beaches open for business? Are you ready for tourists to return?
"I think it is best that people come down, support the economy here in northwest Florida because it is so tourism dependent and for the most part if you stay in panama city beach, you aren't going to notice. All the landmarks are going to be open, the water is fine, the beaches are fine. We definitely need the money that's for sure. Most of the damage occurred in Panama City, so when you come down for vacation, yes you'll see signs that there was a hurricane. But you won't have any idea, if you don't cross that bridge to go into panama city from panama city beach, the amount of destruction is enormous. It is still breathtaking today. It gets a lump in your throat."

I'm sure with hurricane season approaching again, it's making people in that area a bit more nervous so talk about the challenges with the upcoming season.
"I'm not saying that we're not going to have another one like this hit the area but the changes are very very small so I think a lot of the challenges will be communication. Telling people what the threats are calming people's nerves."
Chief meteorologist Chris Smith in Panama City Florida, thanks so much for joining us tonight.