Michael, among the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in
This summer, county officials unveiled a nearly 300-page blueprint to rebuild. Among their ideas is to use shipping containers and 3-D technology to build new houses and to offer signing bonuses for doctors to replace those who fled when their offices and equipment were destroyed.
They have their work cut out for them: About 5,000 people are still homeless and rent for the few available living quarters has skyrocketed. About 1 in 6 insurance claims are still unresolved, and local government officials are worried about depleted tax coffers as small businesses struggle to reopen.
"The community at large is suffering from trauma and grief," officials said in their report, released in July. "Citizens are fatigued, tired and anxious."
"It's frustrating," Hord said.
More people than ever before are in need of mental health services. Such services were fairly limited before Michael hit. Now, officials said in their report, they are "taxed well beyond capacity."
During the past school year alone, 125 students in
The school district has a waitlist of 350 students who need mental health services, and the county at large lost 40 percent of its behavioral health specialists after the storm.
"We are in the midst of a mental health crisis here in
County officials also said they had seen a disturbing amount of domestic violence cases but did not provide details immediately. Health care also has suffered.
Several months after the hurricane,
"The hospital was devastated by the storm and there's still no ICU. What's up with that?" Steele said.
One of the county's two hospitals, heavily damaged by the storm, has only about a quarter of the beds it did before.
Building affordable housing is another priority for the county — both for residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed and the influx of construction workers who are helping to rebuild. Hurricane Michael damaged an estimated 60,000 homes. Since the storm, rental prices have spiked. There have been increases in foreclosures as residents who lost their jobs struggled to keep up with mortgage payments.
County leaders are in talks with private builders to construct new affordable housing quickly through nontraditional means such as 3-D printing, modular construction and tiny houses.
"It's a chicken and an egg thing," said