OneWater Marine owns nine dealerships and marinas in the Florida Panhandle region, and the company said it sustained minimal damage from Hurricane Michael.
However, marinas in Panama City, including Pirate’s Cove, Treasure Island and Lighthouse Marina, weren’t so fortunate.
“It’s a war zone,” said Scott Cunningham, executive vice president of OneWater Marine. “There’s no fuel. There’s no power to pump fuel. There’s no water, no ice. This is the Katrina of the Panhandle, and it just starts at Panama City Beach.”
Matt Mueller manages the Freedom Boat Club franchise based at Lighthouse Marina in in Panama City Beach. He evacuated to Gulf Breeze, Fla., on Tuesday after the storm escalated. “Category 4 was not what we were expecting,” he said.
Panama City Beach was hit by the western wall of the the storm. To the East, Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe took the direct hit.
“We don’t know if we’re in business or not,” said Chip Blackburn, owner of the charter fishing boat, Miss Mary, based in Mexico Beach.
Blackburn said most of the charter fleet, which is based at facilities on Canal Parkway, moved into the Intracoastal Waterway and set storm anchors to ride out the hurricane.
Blackburn said Highway 98, the coastal road that runs east and west through the Panhandle, was blocked yesterday, as were most of the other roads into Mexico Beach. People reportedly were making headway coming from the north, but only residents were being allowed through.
While much of the talk about hurricanes lately has focused on reduced wind speeds and increased rainfall, Michael was an extreme wind event. The speed at which it built from a Category 2 to a Category 4 caught people off guard.
“When they bumped it to 130 mph, you can’t do anything,” said Blackburn, who evacuated to his brother’s home in Tallahassee, Fla. “That’s when I left.”
Added Cunningham, “I’ve been down here a long time, and we start shaking when we see these things blow up so fast.”