City on the right track a year into recovery

Published 3:41 pm Friday, October 11, 2019

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On October 11, 2018, the residents of Bainbridge woke up to widespread damage after Hurricane Michael, a Category 3 hurricane when it hit Bainbridge, churned inward and left mass destruction in its path. Now, just over a year later, Mayor Edward Reynolds discusses how far the city has come since that day and what the city learned from this devastating experience.

Reynolds woke up the morning following the hurricane and couldn’t get his vehicle out of the driveway. He knew he had to get to the pharmacy to make sure the doors hadn’t blown open and left medications scattered about.

“Just the volume of debris immediately after was so haunting,” Reynolds said. “Walking along the roads, I could just see the piles of debris.”

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Looking around now, one might never know there was ever debris filling up every inch of the roadways.

“To think even one year later that all the debris is gone, is a major accomplishment,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds is unsure the exact amount of time debris clean up took, but believes it was approximately seven or eight months.

Reynolds realizes that just because all the debris is gone doesn’t mean everything is completely fixed. He has noticed some houses still have tarps, but for the most part those homes are in recovery mode and hopefully still in negotiation with their insurance agencies and awaiting repair.

While no one wanted to see downtown damaged, Reynolds admits that some of those buildings that were damaged brought in contractors and later investors who wanted to see them restored into something better than they were before.

“I’m excited about the things going on downtown,” he said. “That all seems like it’s going to make a full recovery.”

Through the cleanup and contracting, Reynolds said they did learn some things.

Following the storm, City Hall acquired back up generators that will allow for additional power sources in the event Bainbridge faces another storm of this magnitude.

Reynolds also realized that if faced with the same situation, he would like to do a better job identifying a shelter opportunity for people who need it. Along with the shelter, he wants to make sure if affordable, they acquire all the mechanisms necessary for organizations to come in and set up a shelter. When Red Cross arrived last year, Reynolds said there was a delay because of some of the requirements and the city not having everything they needed.

“It was meeting their standards for a shelter that delayed us last year,” Reynolds said. “We didn’t have a shelter open as soon as we could have, had we known in advance.”

Having no place to go for some people led them to the hospital. Reynolds said the hospital definitely bore some of the burden for them.

“They really went to bat for the community,” Reynolds said. “It was a cost they had to bear though, so we really need to figure out how to handle that in the future.”

Because of this, Reynolds plans to have a full scale follow up meeting in the near future that will include the city, county, emergency management team and the hospital and just evaluate what went well and what can they improve on.

While the one-year evaluation may dredge up the hard times the community faced, Reynolds said he will never forget the community coming together and neighbors helping neighbors.

“You just had people coming out to see whatever they could do,” Reynolds said. “Whether they had the equipment to help clear trees or clear the roads, they were doing it.”

Reynolds hopes this is something the community will never have to deal with again, but if so, he has all the faith that the city of Bainbridge would come out just as united as it did this past year.