Wow, what a whirlwind! It has been just over a month since Hurricane Michael came crashing into the Forgotten Coast as a category 4 storm, the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the Florida panhandle. While our neighbors west of us took the very worst impact of the storm, Apalachicola and Franklin County caught it pretty hard too. My shop got about a foot and a half of floodwater in it, but more about that in a minute.
As the storm was bearing down on us, our county issued an evacuation order the day before it was scheduled to arrive. We loaded up the car (me, the hubby, and our little pup Leon LaVache) and headed to New Orleans, where we knew we'd be safe from the storm and able to find supplies before returning.
The next day, watching the news and staying glued to social media, my heart sank when I saw live footage of my own building - my shop! - with water 3-4 feet deep around it. I knew then that I'd be returning to a flooded workspace.
It's scary to see images like this - and even worse when
you recognize your own building in the footage!
The next day we loaded up on equipment and food that didn't need to be cooked (utilities were out from the storm) and pointed our car east again. We arrived back in Apalachicola Friday afternoon, 48 hours after the storm had passed, driving through the destruction of North Florida. Finally pulling into town, we could see that the recovery efforts had already started. This is a determined, self-reliant community. We got to my shop, pried the water-swollen door open, and I got my first look at the damage.
Water was still standing in some places inside, and in the rest the mud brought in by the flood had dried to a caked, sticky layer on the antique wood floors.
The line of debris around the wall showed that the water
had come up about 18 inches.
Most of my tools stayed safe but the floodwater knocked over stacks of stored goods, and ruined books, keepsakes, and shipping supplies.
It could have been so much worse, and I'm truly grateful, but it was pretty dismaying. We pulled on our gloves and masks, got out the shovels and mops, and scraped and cleaned and scrubbed and washed and threw out the ruined things. We sprayed and disinfected, we mopped and scrubbed again. A large dehumidifier running on a generator helped accelerate the drying, and gave me the time to try and separate what could be saved from what, unfortunately, had to go.
Seeing what I could salvage.
Debris piled up as I emptied the shop. The Apalachicola Chamber of Commerce was next door to me - they got it pretty bad.
Meanwhile, our little town was working to help each other out. The local restaurants and many local folks had gathered the food that remained in the coolers and freezers, and started an impromptu food kitchen outside Tamara's Cafe (on a block that didn't flood).
People helping people - this is what community looks like.
Danny and the Tamara's crew were joined by owners and staff of other local restaurants and a small army of volunteers who cooked three meals a day for a week, providing hot food and comfort to all comers. It really helped me, and getting lunch and dinner on Saturday gave me the chance to focus on saving my shop as best I could.
A sweet note from the local police department,
checking in on my shop during the recovery.
I really appreciated seeing the teams of people hustling to help their community. It got me thinking about what I could do to help, as I felt like I should be volunteering at the meal kitchen but I also really needed to work on my shop.
That's when I realized that as a jeweler, I could do something different to help. After getting the shop stabilized, I set to work designing a simple charm that I could offer as a fundraiser for hurricane recovery in my community. Out of that came the "Wave" charm, handmade from recycled sterling silver.
I'm donating all profits from the sale of the Wave charm to recovery organizations in Franklin and Gulf County, and the response has been great. It reminds some people of waves, some of mermaid scales, some of fish scales, some of puffy clouds over Apalachicola Bay. But everyone sees something in it that reminds them of the area.
Three weeks after the hurricane, Apalachicola was scheduled to host our 55th Annual Florida Seafood Festival on the first weekend of November. This event is a big deal locally, and it's the oldest maritime festival in Florida. So it would make an important statement about our recovery to be able to successfully pull it off so soon after the storm. But pull it off we did! I set up a booth exclusively to offer the Wave charm, and really enjoyed getting to be a part of the event and talking to people about how happy they were to see our little town persevering.
Setting up my booth at the Florida Seafood Festival!
As for Marilyn Brogan Jewelry, I'm happy to announce that I was able to re-open the store last Thursday, one month after Hurricane Michael had passed. I've gotten to do a lot of thinking and planning, and I have some really great designs on the way for the holiday season. But I'll save that for the next newsletter! 😉