Hurricane Michael Damage Assessment: Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach and Panama City

Hurricane Michael Damage Assessment: Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach and Panama City

Posted on: October 23, 2018

Hurricane Michael Field Observations

Next stop on our damage assessment tour: Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach, Panama City and Panama City Beach

Port St. Joe

Port St. Joe is separated into two sections.  A large “L” shaped barrier island which includes a nature preserve and the mainland city itself.  As we drove north on the main highway that runs the length of the barrier island we found significant signs of both strong wind and heavy storm surge.  Many roofs had been completely separated from homes.  The majority of properties had at least some level of roof damage and an equal number were missing siding or showed evidence of other wind distress.  Significant flooding was also observed with many homes having been completely undermined.  That said there was a mix of older, un-elevated homes with more modern construction.  Elevated homes showed breakaway walls doing what they were supposed to do but many insureds finished those areas below the lowest elevated living space (which they were not supposed to do) and thereby impeded the water’s ability to flow below homes as designed.  This gave rise to significant debris piles of what, in most cases, would be property not covered by the insured’s NFIP flood policy.  Those floating debris piles, rammed into and in some cases, through homes causing much more damage.

Unfortunately as we traveled north from the barrier island we came to a point where the road had been completely undermined and collapsed.  At this point, sheriff deputies were only allowing access for residents (and truly enforcing it) but even that access was by foot only.  As a result many miles of damage were unable to be inspected and, in fact, the majority of the claims that had been reported from the books Vanguard handles were inaccessible.  It is expected that damage above the collapsed road will be found to be significantly worse than below.

Within the mainland city of Port Saint Joe a run of particularly severe damage was found.  On Highway 98, which runs along the coast of the Gulf, a number of one‑story brick ranchers were “blown through” where wind and/or water pushed through the front exposure and out the back exposure washing almost all of the contents out the collapsed back wall.  This action was found on at least a four-block stretch where those homes were clearly total losses.


Mexico Beach

Unfortunately, all access to Mexico Beach was blocked and we are unable to comment on observed damages beyond to local news feeds which have provided extensive coverage for this heavily-damaged region.

Panama City and Panama City Beach

As with Mexico Beach, access to Panama City and Panama City Beach were entirely blocked at the time of our original visit.  Since that time we have gained access and found sever wind damage to many homes and businesses in both locations.  Wind had ripped off roofs and siding, a great many trees were felled and most power and telephone lines were either down or compromised.  Though pockets of Panama City Beach had electric, most if not all of Panama City seemed to be with any power.  Though probably there, it was curious that we did not find more signs of storm surge or flood damage.

Presently, access to sections of both municipalities are still not possible though there is a concerted effort between government and neighborhood entities to provide support and relief in multiple locations within the two cities.

Robert Gilliam is the original founder and only president of Vanguard. As part of his role, he also serves as the active director of all corporate operations including claims handling, marketing and finances. Even with these diverse duties, Robert still maintains a small pending to ensure that corporate responsibilities don’t cause him to lose touch with the ever-changing state of the adjusting profession.