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Panama City woman survives Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Michael

Clara Martinez talks about her recovery efforts after two major storms

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Clara Martinez lives in a trailer parked outside what remains of her house after Hurricane Michael, it's the second time a major storm has claimed her home.

"I lost the first one in Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, I bought this one in July and the hurricane hit in October, so I'm not buying anymore houses," she said while giggling. 

Though Martinez laughs it off, her sister Maria said she cries every day. 

Hurricane Maria directly hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds on Sept. 20, 2017. Martinez's home was destroyed, so she moved to Panama City. 

"I was a cancer patient," she said. "I was trying to get better treatment over here, but I'm a cancer survivor, so I survived that one too."

Martinez's home now looks like it's undergoing remodeling, however, she said the process has been painfully slow. She said she wrote her check to the contractor, who keeps delaying when the home will be finished.

"All I want for them to fix my house but they couldn't find any materials," Martinez said. 

So instead, she's paying out of pocket to rent a trailer now parked in her front yard. She's paying $300  a week on top of her $600 a month mortgage. She said money will run out soon. 

"It's taking too long," she said.

However, Martinez said compared to Puerto Rico, it has been easier getting back on her feet. 

"Because over here they are blessed, they are really, really blessed," Martinez said. "In Puerto Rico, when the storm hits, you got to wait months for water or ice. Here, you didn't know what to do or nothing and everybody come and gave you things, it was really nice."

According to officials, they say it's going to be three to five years before the area will be back to normal. 

There is no word on how long it will take for Martinez to move back in. 

"You have to survive," she said. 


About the Author:

Nadeen Yanes

Nadeen Yanes joined News 6 as a general assignment reporter in 2016. She grew up in Leesburg and graduated from the University of Florida. Nadeen has won three Associated Press Awards for her reporting on the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the trial of the Pulse gunman's wife and the capture of an accused cop killer, Markeith Loyd.

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