Perdido Key and Innerarity Point were among the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sally in southwest Escambia County. The storm made landfall at nearby Gulf Shores, leaving property ravaged by wind and water - due to storm surge and more than 20 inches of rainfall.
Driving through the area, it’s clear that a storm has been here. Vegetation on the barrier island has turned brown from the salt water that washed over, trees are down or leaning due to the sustained wind, and there are blue tarps scattered about.
It’s also evident that the cleanup effort is in full swing, with household debris, construction debris, and lots of tree debris piled alongside roads.
“My unit is number 8, there,” said Jody Wright, pointing to what’s left of her small second-floor apartment on Perdido Key Drive.
“As you can see, that one down there, the unit on the far left blew away. The two inner-units, the roof blew off and into the back yard. On my unit, the roof caved in. and, so all the insulation from most of those places blew that way and it’s pretty deep inside my apartment.”
Wright believes the roof’s demise was the result of sustained gusty wind and soaking rain.
“There was a man here during it,” she recalled. He’s the one who that when he came out the next morning and got in his car. That’s when he took a picture and sent it to the landlord that the roof blew off, because he was on the bottom.”
She said the neighbor who rode out the storm in the complex, made it through safely. As a precaution, she evacuated to a hotel.
“So, you can see the rafters and the roof, part of the roof is back there,” said Wright, as we reiterate the good decision she made not to stay in her apartment when the storm came ashore.
We walk up, for a closer look.
“Do you want to go through,” she asks, amid the gusty coastal winds. Then she reminds me, ‘just be careful.’
“Not as windy as it was,” noted Wright with a chuckle, as she opened the door to her apartment.
Looking around, and seeing clear, blue skies overhead, my initial reaction was, “Wow, this is incredible.”
The walls in the apartment are mostly intact and the ceiling fan remains in place. However, the ceiling itself and some of the rafters have caved in, and all the insulation that was up there now covers the floor and everything else.
We carefully walk under rafters and over mushy, wet insulation toward the back on the unit, where her bedroom and bathroom are located.
“That’s it,” she says of the bedroom. “This is the bathroom. As you can see the ceiling caved in there.”
By the looks of this, Wright has lost just about everything.
“Pretty much, yeah,” she confirms. “So, I was just trying to get a little bit of clothes that I can that’s not ruined out there. But, I have no furniture or anything. All of that is definitely gone.”
For now, Wright is staying with her daughter in Gulf Breeze and expressed thanks for the help she’s gotten from Community Life Church, where he daughter is assistant director of children’s ministry.
Fortunately, she had renters insurance that will fully cover her windstorm damage. But, after Hurricane Sally’s destruction, she expects to lose the place she’s called home for the last seven years.
“We found out from the property owner that they’re just going to demolish the whole building because it’s not recoverable,” she revealed.
She admitted that moving forward it might be hard to find another small, affordable rental on Perdido Key, but said she would love to continue living there, “I would come back. I would definitely come back and take my chances, because I just love the beach so much.”
“Yeah, we lost everything. We’re all good and that’s all that matters right now,” said Casey Nettle, who came to Salvation Army’s feeding site at The Point Church to pick up some lunchtime meals for her family.
Nettle lives on nearby Galvez Road on Innerarity Point with her 15-year-old daughter Alexis and 10-year-old daughter Delaney. Her parents, who live in an RV, also rode out the storm at her home.
“Everything in the house was ruined that wasn’t on the walls or on dressers,” Nettle said, adding that her family’s clothes were scattered everywhere.
“Even our school Chromebooks, added Alexis.
“We went to sleep, there was no water,” Nettle declared.
She and daughter, Alexis, explain it was a different situation when they woke up.
“We had a foot of water in our house, inside. It soaked everything. We walked outside and it was up to my thigh. And, it was like that for about three or four days. So, now we’re just now getting everything out of the house, ripping the carpets out and hopefully getting somebody to come out there and adjust it.”
Nettle confirmed the family stayed at their home throughout the storm and its aftermath, and fortunately did not need rescue.
“Yeah, we stayed. We weren’t expecting any of this,” she said of the flooding.
“We waded up the street, until it was just the street; we had to move our vehicles. And, we stayed there until the water went down,” Nettle explained.
Amid the stress of losing everything, is the comfort of having total loss insurance coverage.
I thank Nettle and her teenage daughter for their time and wish them good luck.
“Thanks...have a good day,” they respond before driving off.