A hot meal, helping hands amid devastation in Mexico Beach

Hurricane Michael tossed houses across streets like nothing in quiet beach town

“Welcome! Share the beauty we enjoy everyday!” is written on the welcome sign into Mexico Beach, Florida on Oct. 16, 2018. (Photo: Nadeen Yanes/WKMG)
“Welcome! Share the beauty we enjoy everyday!” is written on the welcome sign into Mexico Beach, Florida on Oct. 16, 2018. (Photo: Nadeen Yanes/WKMG)

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. – As people enter Mexico Beach city limits, a sign reading "Share the beauty we enjoy everyday" greets visitors, however less than a week after Hurricane Michael's 155 mph winds ripped through the beach town turning its beauty into destruction.

"We were thinking maybe a high Category 2, maybe a Category 3 at the worst, but nothing like this," said Brian Joseph, who lost his home during the storm. 

Joseph, his wife and two kids evacuated his three-story Mexico Beach home to Montgomery, Alabama, and watched the coverage as Hurricane Michael slammed into their town. 

Joseph said he first saw their house on the aerial footage before they got home and "It looked like we might not be too bad inside," because unlike the three houses across his street, his house was not in a pile of rubble and it was still standing. However, his assumption was wrong.

"The front door had blown in and the windows blew out and then the roof up top blew off and more windows upstairs," Joseph said. "It just became a hurricane inside our house too." 

That's the same story at nearly every property in the Florida Panhandle beach town.

Down the main beach access road on Highway 98, the eastbound lanes are washed out and two houses perfectly intact look like they were tossed across the street with ease.

Just past the "Welcome to Mexico Beach" sign, a small canal, which once held dozens of boats slips, is now filled with twisted metal. The boats were thrown against trees in some woods where on Tuesday rescue crews with cadaver dogs from Memphis were searching for any possible victims.

There is help arriving to the quiet beach town.

On Tuesday, News 6 found the only spot in town with hot food. A food truck run by two families who also lost both of their vacation homes in Mexico Beach. Back home in Leesburg, Georgia, they packed up a food truck worth of supplies and have been serving hot breakfast, lunch and dinner to first responders and residents free of charge.

"A cooked meal and a smiling face, that is what they are looking for," said Allison Knight, as she was serving biscuits and gravy. 

"Each and every day we realize more how good God is during the storms," Rebecca Wiggins said. "It's the least we can do."

For Talia Butcher, who swam through the storm surge to survive, wearing a life jacket, a hot meal is the only thing getting her through these long days as she waits for her insurance adjuster and FEMA representatives to arrive.

"After losing everything, this is the best thing I can ever get," Butcher said.

According to the City of Mexico Beach Facebook page, all residents, insurance adjusters and property owners will be allowed to come back to their homes on Wednesday. Residents must show proof they live in Mexico Beach to pass the checkpoints.

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