Months After Hurricane Michael, A Makeshift Welcome Center Marks Mexico Beach's Budding Return
The temporary structure is designed to serve as a meeting point for visitors helping to rebuild the Florida town.
It’s been just three months since Hurricane Michael blazed a devastating path through the small Gulf Coast town of Mexico Beach, Florida, and the bruises are apparent: Debris scatters the coastline while dirt lots mark the ground where homes and businesses once stood.
But, atop one of those empty lots, this small but mighty town is sending a message: Visit Mexico Beach. Rather than a call for tourism, the sign that shares those words is more a symbol of Mexico Beach’s resilience. What once stood where the sign and single trailer now sit—the original town welcome center—was ripped apart in hurricane-force winds. But, with a new makeshift welcome center, the Mexico Beach Community Development Council (which operates the welcome center) is back and promises to be better than ever.
"This stretch of sand is home or a home-away-from-home to so many, and our temporary Welcome Center now provides everyone with a location to stop by, say 'hello' and feel the resiliency of Mexico Beach,” says Mexico Beach Community Development Council President Kimberly Shoaf.
The Welcome Center is just one of many businesses in Mexico Beach that have bounced back swiftly and scrappily. A handful of restaurants are now serving food to the residents, visitors, and relief workers who are helping to rebuild Mexico Beach, some operating food trucks or makeshift kitchens in front of where their old businesses used to be. The local hardware store, owned by Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey, has also reopened in a warehouse behind the old shop.
“We are making steps every day,” Kimberly Shoaf told the Never Forgotten Coast campaign. “Trash piles are being picked up, people are moving back into their homes, and utilities are back online. Mexico Beach as a destination can write an even better story about its unique, coastal community, and how resilient we are and how we will come back better than before.”