"We’re back to frontier days": Michael’s aftermath in Florida

Until Saturday, when neighbors broke through with chain saws and an excavator, the Lipford home, sitting on 160 acres the family has owned since the Civil War, was cut off from civilization. The only way into the property was on an all-terrain vehicle crossing the waterlogged pastures and over bridges built of wooden pallets.

“We’re back to frontier days,” said Jean Lipford, 50. Since Hurricane Michael struck this town on Wednesday, she has been washing clothes in a bucket and bathing in the creek where her husband made a dam with small stones. Her daughter Whitney, 23, has been wielding a chain saw, returning to the house every two hours to breast-feed her 6-week-old son…

She and other residents had been told by elected officials to evacuate in advance of the hurricane. But how? To where? She’s a minimum-wage worker at a call center. She couldn’t afford a hotel room. And the storm came so quickly, there wasn’t enough time to prepare for a multiday stay in a faraway shelter.

In Bristol, a tiny town in Florida’s smallest county, Liberty, where the biggest road has two lanes and half the land is in a national forest, Emergency Management Director Rhonda Lewis found herself cut off from the rest of the world. No power, no landlines or cellphone connections, no Internet. A satellite phone wouldn’t work. It kept saying “searching . . . searching . . . searching,” Lewis said.