After Hurricane Michael, speeding up the long-term recovery process


June 25, 2020

Hurricane Michael slammed in to the panhandle of Florida in October 2018. It was a Category 5, the strongest level of hurricane. A year and a half later, families are still recovering from the damage and destruction that the storm brought. CWS teamed up with the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium to help families with long-term recovery. We provided a grant for PAEC to use to support their clients who are also farm workers. They reached more than a dozen families, including the Cantero family. This is their story:

My name is G. Evelyn Cantero, and my husband is Jaír. We have three beautiful children: Analise just turned 10, Jonathan is 9 and Aizlynn is 8. My 79-year-old mom lives with us as well.

Jaír and I work in agriculture, and our home base is in Florida. We harvest anything from squash to eggplant to tomatoes. In July we migrate to the mountains of Asheville, NC to harvest tomatoes.

Being in agriculture, the weather is very important to us. That’s why I started paying very close attention to the cluster of storms that later would become Hurricane Michael. We knew that if it came our way, it would not only affect our lives but our work. As the hurricane approached, we put our evacuation plan in action and took whatever precaution we could to protect our home and ourselves. We rode out the hurricane in a hotel in Marianna and we saw firsthand what a storm of this magnitude could do.

The next day we drove home to scope out the damage. As we arrived at home, the first thing we noticed was the major damage to the siding. Once we stepped out of our vehicle, we assessed the outside damage. We had damage to the front porch and major damage to the back porch and siding. Upon entering the house, we found a broken living room window and a hole in the roof over the kitchen sink with lots of water damage to the wall and sink base. In the dining room was another hole in the roof, another broken window, water damage to the wall, a broken and damaged outside side door, and damage to the steps leading out the side door. In my mom’s room was another broken window and water damage to her back wall. The main bathroom had the worst damage; it had a huge hole in the roof and lots of water damage. In my children’s room was more damage to the roof and water damage from the bathroom that went into their room. In the master bedroom was another broken window and a leaking skylight in the master bath.

We thanked God that our home was still standing even though it suffered lots of damage.

Due to our home being an older mobile home we were not able to have insurance on it. Our only resource at that time was to apply for FEMA. When the FEMA adjuster came, he told us that our home had the most damaged he had seen thus far. The money they gave us was almost enough to fix our roof, but not all of it.

After we had the roof fixed, we decided that we would save up and fix the rest as soon as we could. Most of the fields we worked in were in Marianna, Florida. We knew that after the hurricane passed, we would be without work since our new season would not start until mid-April. Once April rolled around, we went back to work and slowly started to buy the outside siding. We were able to buy more than half, but then the weather and another major problem affected our family.

In May of 2019 my husband came home after work and did not look very well. He was complaining of a headache and feeling weak. I rushed him to the hospital, where he was quickly pumped with four liters of IV. He had had a heat stroke.

In the next few months, he would have six more ER visits for the same thing. I kept seeing a decline in his health. Finally we were able to qualify for Medicaid and he was finally able to see a doctor. His doctor quickly put him on several medications and sent him to a few specialists to rule out any long turn damage from the heat stroke. She also only allowed him to work until noon.

All of this caused major changes for us especially financially. We are so far behind on bills, but I prayed to one day catch up. My sister Lori sent me to Dr. Pouncey’s office [at the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium] one day to pick up Farm Share for her crew and our family. Just as I was about to leave, Dr. Pouncey asked if I knew of anyone who had hurricane damage and was not able to get it fixed.

I hesitated at first, but I told her we did. She told me to get her a list. The next steps happened so fast, but we were blessed with huge help to fix our home. Dr. Pouncey told me it was through the generosity of CWS.

With your help, we have been able to fix our kids’ room and our kitchen sink. We will also be able to fix our entire main restroom, two of the broken windows, the hole in the ceiling in the dining room and the dining room wall. We will also be able to fix the broken window in my mom’s room as well as the damaged wall. The side outside door is being replaced, and the steps will be fixed.

We are so grateful for all the help you have given our family. With this help you have put us closer to our goal of getting our home repaired. My children are so excited to be able to sleep in their repaired bedroom. They couldn’t stop smiling when they saw their room! We still have several other projects to do, but we will get them done in due time. Thank you so much we are truly grateful for all the help we have received. You have blessed us!

Thank you to everyone who supports our disaster response programs in the United States and around the world. You are walking alongside families like the Canteros on their road to recovery.