Walton County stands strong

Nathan Cobb | 315-4432 | @WaltonSunNate | nathan@waltonsun.com

The day after Hurricane Michael made landfall, the sun was shining in Walton County, sea-side towns along 30A were less crowded and people were even at the beach.

Unfortunately, our neighbors to the east weren't as lucky. Category 4 force winds swept through the Gulf Coast, leaving areas of Panama City and Mexico Beach leveled. Some people vacationing in South Walton evacuated, others decided to ride out the storm.

"We hunkered down and stuck it out and watched the trees bend, but they didn't break," said Alex Lozano, an Atlanta resident vacationing a block from the beach in Seaside. "It took a day away from me, but I got it back today."

He said that since the weather was so bad the day before, he knew Sunday would bring sunny skies and wanted to make the best of last day on the Emerald Coast.

However, even though most areas in Walton County were spared from destruction, several on 30A was still without power on Thursday.

"We're definitely fortunate that it didn't hit us dead on because we didn't know until the last minute, and you know, it even became a category four last minute," said Jackie Maliszewski, the office manager at Cafe 30A, who added they would hopefully have power within the next couple days.

She said they put their window shutters up, but didn't board up any windows because of the storm's eastward projection. 

"While it's fortunate for us, it's unfortunate for someone else, and that's just how it is with hurricanes," said David Kessler, the cafe's general manager.

Even though Cafe 30A was left structurally intact, most of their employees commute from Bay County and were hit by the storm a lot worse.

"We're just trying to see when they can get home and what their situation is as far as damages to their houses," Kessler said, who shared he was going to check on some of his friends' homes later that day.

Other locals, like Heather Brown, who lives in Inlet Beach, remembered Hurricane Opal and is familiar with the destructive power of hurricane-force winds.

"I went through Opal in the glass business, and I had no idea the devastation," Brown said, who added that storms are accompanied with the clearest skies days after. "You never get this blue, ever. ... After Opal, it was the most incredible blue you've ever seen."

Brown said she evacuated to Miramar Beach to be with her family in case the storm took a turn for the worst. She also said nearly everyone she knew along 30A left as well, but that the area was lucky and should shift its focus to helping its less fortunate neighbors.

"I almost want to cry, and to see that (devastation) in Mexico Beach, been there done that, so, as soon as we can get over there to help, we're there," she said.