Mexico Beach couple from Indiana reflect on Hurricane Michael anniversary
As we approach the anniversary of Hurricane Michael, people in Mexico Beach are looking back at how far they've come, and looking ahead at how far they have to go.
The sunsets on Mexico Beach are as gorgeous as ever but as soon as you cross Highway 98 and look the other direction, you can see the storm’s lasting impact.
"Honestly at my age, I didn't think I would be hanging vinyl siding, but I've learned a lot and that's what I'm doing now,” said Karen Gabriel, who lives in Mexico Beach.
Karen Gabriel and her boyfriend Chris moved to Mexico Beach from Indiana just five months before Hurricane Michael.
They were two of just a few dozen on record that stayed during the storm, and as a matter of fact, they've stayed in Mexico Beach all year.
"You know, it's almost just like you're stuck in time,” said Gabriel. “A lot of people who come here, come here to vacation. We live here and every day we re-live it in some shape or form. We can't get away from it."
Karen ran a cleaning business before the storm, but now there aren't any houses to clean.
So, she's helping Chris with his contracting business, which on the bright side, has never been better.
"We're doing a house here and we're waiting for our home to be repaired as well," said Gabriel.
Karen and Chris’s neighbor grew up in Mexico Beach and retired back to the town recently.
He's also waiting for repairs to the condo that he stayed in during the storm.
"I heard my commodes growl like a wild beast in a movie and spray water into the ceilings,” said Gabriel’s neighbor Tony Beagles. “My floor tiles danced like piano keys. Holding on, it felt like we were going over railroad tracks."
Tony is selling his condo, but he is keeping his other property in Mexico Beach because, despite the destruction, he can't imagine leaving.
And neither can Karen.
"This is the place we fell in love with and we're staying,” said Gabriel. “We're going to help our community and do the best we can."
She says it's still gorgeous there, the sunsets are incredible and things are getting a little better every day.