Arbormax was determined to get to hurricane-ravaged Panama City but they first had to cut their way to get here.
On Oct. 11, one day after the third most powerful hurricane in U.S. history made landfall, the North Carolina-based tree removal company hit the road in Tallahassee but didn’t get far.
Hurricane Michael had not only shut down nearby Interstate 10, but also brought down plenty of trees and power lines across alternate routes leading to Bay and surrounding counties.
Arbormax customer service representative Joseph High said that he and his crew became part of an impromptu caravan cutting downed trees and clearing them off smaller state roads.
A drive from Tallahassee, Fla. to Panama City that normally takes two hours turned into 14, but at last they made it the day after the deadly storm unleashed powerful winds that pushed over huge heritage oaks, pines and power poles and tore apart buildings and homes that seemed so strong.
Like so many other contractors coming to clean up Bay and its neighboring counties, the crew from Arbormax had to sleep in their trucks for several days because there was no place to stay. Several motels were too damaged to take on guests and others to the west in Panama City Beach, where the storm was less intense, were already packed with people seeking refuge from the devastation to the east.
Eventually, some rooms on the beach became available for the Arbormax crew which stays busy from sunup to sundown cutting up and removing trees that have fallen on businesses, homes, vehicles and roads.
High’s only complaint? He’s tired of driving his company’s Prius C from one stop to another.
“I told them I want a truck,” he said smiling.
But in an area where it’s been harder to find gas and diesel, getting 500 miles or so out of a ten-gallon tank isn’t so bad.