Florida Caverns State Park, nestled in Marianna, FL, sustained a direct hit from Hurricane Michael. Known for its caves, the park also contained a forest habitat. Since becoming a state park in 1942, visitors have wandered through and explored the different trails within the forest and camped under the shade of the huge trees.
Now, a majority of the trees are gone. Hurricane Michael's strong winds caused the trees to fall or snap in half. They fell on structures and blocked access roads. Park staff were trapped in their residences inside the park.
The day after the hurricane, park staff from around the state arrived to help. Armed with chainsaws and heavy equipment, they excavated the park that the Civilian Conservation Corps created in the late 1930s.
Hurricane Michael blocked access to Florida Caverns State Park. Trees littered the roads and access paths.
Florida State Park staff were forced to climb over fallen trees and debris to get into the park and assess the damage.
Strike teams from around the state used chainsaws, tractors and bulldozers to clear roads and debris. The first priority was to ensure the safety of resident staff.
Florida Caverns State Park was initially created by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a Great Depression era work program. Community members dug out the tunnels and passageways in the caverns that for over 75 years visitors have explored. In spite of the power of Hurricane Michael, the excavated caves and the commemorative statue to CCC remained intact. Their work and the work of the recovery teams is a testament to the enduring spirit of Florida Caverns State Park and its community.