MARIANNA — During Hurricane Michael, Ronald Petroziello and his family sat on the floor of their emptied den and prayed for the storm to pass. Now, a month after the storm, the family is still praying in their gutted house, but this time their prayers are for relief from their troubles in any way, shape, or form.
Ronald and his wife, Diana, moved to Marianna, Florida, from Pennsylvania in hopes of enjoying their older years in the warmer weather. When they decided to rent their home, they had no idea a hurricane would take everything they had spent a lifetime building together, and leave the family with a now-molding house under a lease that does not cover the extensive damage.
While neighbors evacuated, the Petroziello family decided to stay put. Ronald considered his experiences with floods and blizzards back home, and thought he had already experienced the worst of the tortuous side Mother Nature habitually flaunts at the most inconvenient times.
It didn’t take long for Ronald to realize he had made a mistake.
“I wouldn’t wish this experience on my worst enemy. It sounded like a big freight train or a jet engine coming through with winds that shook our house. You just feel hopeless,” said Ronald.
The family had no choice but to duck and cover in a family dog pile of sorts. Diana had no recollection of the mammoth tree that once towered over the residence being uprooted and slammed into the side of the home, claiming the sheer sound of the wind masked the crackle trees bring when they give way and break.
Today, a month after the storm, the family is still surviving though they have been stripped of their livelihood.
Dinner is now cooked on the grill outside or eaten cold, showering is more like an ice bath and only done when absolutely necessary, and the still, soft silence of the night is now drowned out by the hum of a generator that is constantly running and costs the family $250 a week to maintain.
It is far than the relaxing life of luxury the Petroziellos had signed up for.
Though the family is making progress to the home on their own, Ronald said he feels abandoned by FEMA and his insurance.
“We made it out alive and the rest we can make good again in time,” Ronald said. “But the trouble is we’re not getting any help. FEMA won’t help us. I mean no help. Because we only have a little bit of renters insurance, they won’t help us. I’ve never heard of such a thing. People don’t help people here. Other than the churches that come around, they’re a blessing.”
Just down the street, businesses are suffering many of the same losses.
Most stores and restaurants have power and are slowly but surely inching their way back to life, but Chevron owner Mohammed Shahjahnn feels as though there is no hope in sight.
The storm nearly destroyed the entire structure of the building that now looks like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie. However, the convenience shop of the gas station still remains, and is currently Shahjahnn’s only source of income for the unforeseeable future.
All four of the gas pumps at the station are out of service, and insurance payouts are dampening Shahjahnn’s chances of ever recovering in the same way surrounding businesses will.
“We are still struggling because this is the busiest choice for gas in Marianna. They advertise us on the interstate but we still have no gas so people get mad, and it really hurts our business,” said Shahjahnn.
The store owner said his insurance payout has not come through, so the site is not able to transfer gas or sell it. Most of the store fell victim to Michael and was blown away, and without money from the insurance coverage, the status of the station cannot change, Shahjahnn said.
“I don’t even have enough from my own pocket to get things up and running again while I wait for the check. All I can do is take it day by day and hope someone comes to help us,” Shahjahnn said. “But we are a month since the storm, and no one has helped us.”