This past summer, Teresa Secrest left Orange County, Calif., to move into a small beach cottage in Mexico Beach, Fla., that she had inherited from her father. Like many Americans, she considered life on the beach a retirement paradise; even better, the home’s mortgage was paid off, so living would be cheap. Secrest, a 58-year-old cancer survivor, tidied up the yard, did some repairs and went to sleep listening to the waves crash on the sugar-white sand 300 feet from her door.
Then in October, Hurricane Michael arrived. Secrest evacuated to a place of safety. Days later, she returned to discover the worst: Her home was gone, reduced to a pile of rubble that was still wet from the storm surge. “My only plan right now is, how do I clean up my property?” Secrest said after viewing the wreckage. “That’s step one. Step two is ... I don’t really know step two.”
Secrest doesn’t think she will be able to rebuild. She did not have an insurance policy through the federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which provides coverage to more than 5 million homeowners, condo associations and businesses.