Panhandle Update

Since we arrived at our home in Panama City Beach, other than joining our friends at WKGC-FM for coverage of the midterm elections, we’ve been preoccupied with our own clean up. However, our problems with downed trees and some other debris were nothing compared to what we saw when we finally made our first trip east across the Hathaway Bridge into Panama City.

We thought we knew what to expect.

Not even close!!

You’re probably familiar with the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words.” so, rather than try to describe what we saw as we drove, we thought we’d just share some pictures.

The pictures below were taken one month after hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle.

Compared to many on the Panhandle, we’re doing fine.  Sadly, but not at all surprisingly, some of our friends, not so much.  Yes, things will get better but, obviously, this is going to take some time.

This was/is life-changing.

Every day is a struggle for many who are living alone … or … TRYING to live … without a place to call home.

As bad as this is, and it is REALLY bad, more and more we are struck by the spirit we see on the Panhandle.  This is more than lip-service about helping your friends in need.  This is DOING IT.  This is helping your friends when YOU are in need!

Yes, some have left.  Understandably!  But, among those who have stayed, there is this incredible feeling of rebuilding and creating something better than what was here before.  Local government entities are not just waiting for their federal counterparts to point the way.  Certainly, they are incorporating federal expertise and assistance but, locally, THEY are making the map for this recovery.  The local creative community (And it is a STRONG one!) has come together with multiple projects to help in rebuilding.

Yes, hurricane Michael was life-changing, but that life is far from over.

Please check back in our blog for updates.  We’ll do our best to share what we know, as we know it.

Also, even though it has become a cliche to some, we know many of our friends in the Panhandle would appreciate it if you’d keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

#PanhandleStrong

#850 Strong

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2018 Midterm Election Coverage

With the midterm elections having an impact on all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate along with 39 state and territorial governorship’s as well as numerous other state and local elections, this night promises to be far from insignificant.

Once again we’re honored to have been asked to join the team at WKCG-FM, in Panama City, Fl. for their election night coverage.  We’ll be starting at 7PM (Central) and going until …

If you’re not in the Panama City area, you can listen in online just by clicking this link.

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Creeping Out Of The Shadows …. Our Halloween Poem Has Returned!

You probably thought you’d be safe this year, but nooooooooo!

Once again crawling out from the depths of Halloween’s past, it’s the return of our Halloween Poem.  It’s a fun “trick” to add to your bag of treats for your little people.

For the uninitiated, this is a poem which, in one form or another, we’ve been presenting on radio and the Internet for several decades.  Honestly, we don’t know the origin of the poem. A listener sent it to Steve many years ago in a galaxy far, far away in the days before him n her became HimNHer.  The positive response to the poem and the fun it can provide, particularly for kids, at a Halloween party resulted in it becoming one of our annual traditions.  And, as Steve’s Dad always said, “Tradition is a fine thing as long as it doesn’t become a habit.”

But, we digress …

OK, here is how it works.  If you’re having some young children over for Halloween, just get them in a dark room and read them this story of a young man who went to school to learn to be a first-class ghoul.  As you’re reading the story, in the dim light, you pass out items that are supposed to be body parts.  Johnnie has put together a list of things you can use to simulate the body parts.  To make the story even scarier, you can play the audio of Steve’s voice reading the poem.

To read and hear the Halloween poem just click on this link.

Again this year, we have to say a huge THANK YOU to Dave Marzullo, one of the hardest working SPIRITS at WGN Radio for jumping through more Internet hoops than you’ll ever know to make our Halloween poem and it’s audio available.

Even in this high-tech world, each year we hear from a lot of people telling stories of the fun they had with the kids and this old school Halloween poem.  Hopefully, you’ll be one of them.

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Stress And … A Children’s Book?!?!?

People deal with stress in different ways.  While we’re certainly not going to claim that we’ve come anywhere near to experiencing the kind of stress that our family and friends on the Panhandle have experienced in the aftermath of hurricane Michael, checking in on friends and recovery progress on a daily basis, even from a vantage point 1,000 miles away, provides its own levels of emotion, anxiety, discomfort and, yes, stress.

There have been many moments when, after talking with Panhandle friends or reading their posts about how they’re having to rebuild their communities, their homes and what’s left of their lives, we have had to just stop.

Just stop … and try not to feel guilty about how lucky we are to have found out that Johnnie’s Dad is safe, that our little yellow house is OK or that our part of the Panhandle, because of its comparative lack of destruction and quicker projected recovery, is where many of the lineman and other first responders are finding places to stay that haven’t been completely devastated by Michael.

Just stop … and think how lucky we are to have each other.

We have a luxury that our friends in the areas devastated by Michael don’t.  As we write this, we’re not living with it and IN it 24 hours a day.  We can try to do something “mindless” to just pause, take a breath, and point our minds in a different direction for a few minutes.

We did that the other day, with surprising results.

One of us made a comment and we both laughed at the wording of the comment.  Then, for some strange reason, we found ourselves quickly agreeing that the words used could make an interesting character name.  Then, we started thinking about what kind of character it would be.  Then, what kind of personality it would have.  Then, what kind of life would it have and … and …

We know we’re being a bit cryptic in our description.  That’s intentional.  We don’t want to give too much away … yet.  Because, the character idea started taking on a life of its own and we started writing some ideas down and before we knew it, roughly 2 days later, we’d finished writing a children’s book!

We wanted to get an opinion from a writer we trust, so we shared it with Steve’s brother, Lee, and he was as enthusiastic about it as we are.

We’re now exploring publishing options and looking for an illustrator.

Even now, when we’re feeling a little overwhelmed with some of life’s realities, we find that going to our new creation and reading it out loud makes us smile.

We don’t think that’s a bad thing for a children’s book to do.

Stay tuned.

 

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The Most Important Thing On Our “To Do” List

One VERY important thing was perched right at the top of our “To Do” list before we head down to the Panhandle.

It’s done!

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A Bit More of What We Know About Michael

Physically, we’re still in Chicago.  Emotionally, we’ve been in Panama City Beach every day and night since Hurricane Michael landed.

Every day, and far into the wee hours of many nights, has been spent checking with and on family and friends and learning as much as we can about what’s going on.

The short story is, WE got lucky.  Most importantly, as we said in a previous post, Johnnie’s Dad is OK.  Our home is west of the Hathaway bridge, in Panama City Beach.  While there was/is some damage and resulting power/water outage problems, overall, life in that area, particularly the west end, will return or be returning to a semblance of normalcy reasonably soon or in the foreseeable future.

The tree that came down in our front yard has been taken care of.  To get to it, the power company had to remove an additional tree that we’d planted years ago with Steve’s Dad.  Our neighbors from across the street have just returned to PCB and tell us that, other than a little damage to a shed, our car and the expected debris in our front and back yard, from what they can see, our little yellow house appears to be OK.  Hopefully, we’ll get to see for ourselves when our, once again, rescheduled flight lands in PCB, next Sunday.

East of the Hathaway Bridge, in Panama City, Lynn Haven, Callaway and escalating significantly as you go farther eastward to places like Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe it’s a completely different story that, in some cases, resembles a war zone with areas and, more importantly, lives that have been forever changed.

All 3 of our local TV stations, WJHG, WECP and WMBB were knocked off the air.  Personalities from those stations, including WJHG’s Chief Meteorologist, Chris Smith, who joined us on Nick Digilio’s show on WGN before the storm hit, have been re-defining what it means for a broadcaster to serve your local community as they have continued to report through Facebook live, Twitter and other social media platforms using their cell phones, laptops or whatever forms of communication they could cobble together.

WKGC-FM, in Panama City, the radio station we work with when we’re on the gulf coast is the only Public Media/Radio station located inside the Bay County Emergency Operations Center in their backup facility and has been delivering breaking information on Hurricane Michael aftermath and search and recovery operations.

Speaking of WKGC-FM, the worlds first totally solar truck is gone, another of Michael’s victims. We were 2 of the 7 people who ever had the privilege of driving it for a Video Road Test project we were working on with WKGC-FM and Gulf Coast State College.

What’s left of the world’s first solar powered truck.

Unfortunately, a major blow was dealt to local media when Powell Broadcasting, which owned a cluster of radio stations in the area, announced that, after sustaining “catastrophic damage” to its facility on Panama City Beach, it would cease broadcasting operations in the market.  In a statement they said “Hurricane Michael did catastrophic damage to our physical plant to the point that rebuilding was uneconomic.”

In many cases, due to lack of cell phone, Internet and cable, we have more information about what’s going on along the panhandle than some of our friends living there do.  We’ve been doing our best to funnel it to them.

Many of our friends have had severe damage to, or lost, their homes.  Some have also lost their jobs.  Because of catastrophic damage along the panhandle, it will take weeks, months or even years for some areas to recover.  Some may be beyond repair.

Sadly, lives have been lost too.  And, both major hospitals in Panama City, Bay Medical Sacred Heart and Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center have evacuated patients due to heavy damage from Hurricane Michael.  Bay Medical Sacred Heart did just announce that their Beach ER will be open 24/7!

As we’ve been watching from our vantage point, 1000 miles away, even at this distance, we can’t help but be touched by the spirit and resilience of the panhandle’s people.

A Facebook poster may have put it best when she shared this and we’d like to share it with you.

If you wonder why we’ve gone out of our way to make the panhandle a part of our lives for years, that pretty much sums it up.  Steve’s Dad once said that he “came for the weather and stayed for the people.”

Us, too.

 

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Here’s What We Know, So Far

As we write this, we’re doing our best to get what news we can about the aftermath of Hurricane Michael and its impact on our extended family and friends.  Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is still closed, so we’re not sure if we’ll be able to fly into Panama City Beach this weekend or not.

A police officer tells us that the 3 story pine tree in our front yard is down but it fell AWAY from our house, not on it. The tree is resting on the power lines. No one has gotten close enough to thoroughly check our house but, the roof and windows appeared to be intact. No power & no water.

Johnnie’s Dad’s condo across the street from the beach has miraculously come thru without damage. He didn’t even lose power! Johnnie finally spoke to him today and he is fine. He stayed in Panama City Beach, but inland with friends who have a generator. That’s all we know at this point.

Sat. we will decide if we are able to fly down Sun. morning. We’ve had our tickets for months and were originally ticketed for last Sun, the 7th, but we re-booked because it was so hot! When we re-booked there was no talk of a storm. Talk about timing!

Our little corners of the gulf appear to have fared far better than many.

As stressed as we’ve been the past couple days just watching this horrible, historic event devastate the panhandle, our stress is nothing compared to people in areas east of Panama City Beach like Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Callaway, Panama City and others who found themselves getting a much more direct hit from Michael.  Our prayers are with them.

Thank you, so much, for your concern.  Your prayers were and are appreciated!

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