Surviving Michael – Selma native shares experience during hurricane’s landfall

Published 12:05 am Saturday, October 13, 2018

Selma native Tom Headley was in the midst of the storm as Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida this week.

The Panama City resident said it was nothing like he was used to dealing with specifically with hurricanes in 2005.

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“Panama City is level,” said Headley. “We were trying to make it out of there yesterday (Thursday) and there were caravans of electrical trucks, and then you’d go another 10 miles and there would be more and then military convoys. They were only letting people with Panama City addresses in.

“I made that mistake of riding it out,” Headley.

Headley’s experience had him going from his home to seeking refuge in each of his vehicles.

“I had a trailer next to mine flip over on my trailer,” said Headley. “I had my Jeep Cherokee parked in the driveway next to my pickup truck … the truck was going back and forth, but that Cherokee was pretty stable, so I went in it, and I was going to ride it out. At about that time, all Hell broke loose.

“I had a window air conditioning unit come through the windshield of the jeep with me in it,” said Headley. “I broke a finger and got some lacerations and the bad part of it was, that you couldn’t get to the hospital. It was about a mile and a half walk. This was late Wednesday afternoon, and there was an 8 p.m. curfew so you couldn’t get out. I stayed in the truck because my trailer was done, and I just poured peroxide on my hands and slept in the truck all sopping wet all night.

“I remember it was deathly quiet,” said Headley. “There wasn’t even any crickets. No frog sounds or anything. Every once in a while, a helicopter would come over shining a light and where there used to be forests, there was just stumps now.”

With some help from a neighbor the next morning, Headley was able to move his truck out from under debris that was once his home that had come down on the truck during the night.

It was only after this that his journey to the hospital began.

“I spent about an hour getting the street cleared,” said Headley. “this was about 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning. I made my way to the hospital and stores like the Pet Smart had a sign and two walls and that was it. The Goodwill store collapsed. The things they were selling like clothes were just standing there, but the whole wall was gone.”

Headley was fixed up at the hospital and returned to his property to salvage what he could for the journey back to Dallas County where he is now staying with friends in Valley Grande.

“It was a tough experience, and one that I don’t want to experience again,” said Headley. “My immediate plans are unknown, but I will try to make it back down soon and see what else I can salvage. It is starting over and sometimes we have to start over.”

A Go Fund Me account has been set up by friends of Headley.

Donations can be made at