On October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle as a high-end Category 4 hurricane. The devastation the storm left in its path was catastrophic and widespread. Homes were destroyed, neighborhoods were eradicated, and lives were forever changed.
As the storm passed, and the aftermath was first seen on television screens and across social media platforms, one thing was clear – people needed somewhere to turn. Many turned to 2-1-1.
Faced with the unimaginable, having lost their homes, businesses, and sometimes so much more, countless people affected by Hurricane Michael reached out to 2-1-1 for help. Callers needed to know where they could go to find shelter or housing, who could help them with removing debris from their properties, and what agencies were still operational and could provide them with the everyday necessities they no longer had access to.
In October of last year, United Way of Northwest Florida and United Way of Escambia County received over 15,000 calls – over 9x the average monthly call volume of 1,700. Many of these individuals and families were victims of Hurricane Michael – displaced, desperate, and in need of resources.
Because of the enormity of the storm and the vast reach of its devastation, United Way Worldwide’s 2-1-1 team took a leadership role in connecting United Way of Escambia County’s 211 Northwest Florida team with 2-1-1 call centers across the nation willing and able to provide direct assistance.
2-1-1 of Los Angeles took extended after-hours calls for approximately 2 ½ weeks following Hurricane Michael. 2-1-1 Southern Kentucky, 2-1-1 Pennsylvania, and 2-1-1 Minnesota all had team members taking calls during daytime hours well beyond the time Michael had dissipated. VisionLink, the software platform of resource directories utilized by 2-1-1 centers nationwide, also helped United Way Worldwide identify supporting organizations that shared the software.
It was because of the collaborative, community-minded resolve of these agencies across the country that individuals in need of temporary housing, in need of debris removal, in need of financial assistance because their businesses were destroyed, were able to get help.
Recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Michael will be long-lasting, but whether people are dealing with the aftermath of a disaster or the everyday hardships so many experience, 2-1-1 Northwest Florida is here to help.
2-1-1 Northwest Florida is a completely free information and referral service available 24/7 in Escambia, Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington Counties. Simply dial 2-1-1 to speak with anonymously with a trained information and referral specialist, or visit 211nwfl.org.