In the early morning hours after Hurricane Michael made landfall, Master Chief Petty Officer Mark Kannan began the arduous journey back to Coast Guard Station Panama City, where he serves as the officer in charge.
As he drove back to the station, the magnitude of the devastation forced him to consider the logistics of his planned mission: getting the station’s search and rescue services back up and running again.
“I barely recognized the area,” Kannan said. “I’ve been through hurricanes before, but this looked more like a bomb had been dropped on the city.
“I planned on calling the crew back to the area as soon as possible, but after driving into Panama City that morning after the storm, I realized that many of them may not have a home to come back to,” he continued.
With ingenuity and no small degree of resourcefulness, Kannan and a small crew of station personnel managed to put together a disaster response trailer to get out to Coast Guard members’ homes to assess the damage.
As word of their assessment work spread, Coast Guard personnel who had homes in the area began reaching out, seeking out the welfare of their homes before deciding when it was safe to go back to Panama City.
The team wound up assessing over 120 homes of Coast Guard members, putting in over 400 man hours clearing trees, tarping damaged roofs, and removing the detritus that enveloped the city. It was in these early days after the storm, Kannan and the crew realized that the overwhelming needs of the community beckoned them to expand their mission and outreach.
A recent afternoon in early November, almost one month after the hurricane hit, highlighted how the station’s relief efforts grew to include providing relief services to people throughout the community.