The busy season had just finished at Florida Caverns State Park when Hurricane Michael hit.
An estimated 140,000 people visit from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year.
Whether or not those numbers will hold steady in 2019 will depend on how well the park recovers from the damage done by Oct. 10 Category 4 hurricane that ravaged the park and a large swath of the Panhandle into southern Georgia.
Eighty to 90 percent of the trees covering the 1,500-acre Marianna attraction were lost.
“The storm was the likes we’ve never seen before,” said Park Manager Jacob Strickland. “We have done a very limited assessment on the cave at this point. Of course, most of the trees that were above the cave, a lot of them have come down. There is a possibility that there could be (new entrances into the cave) but that is unknown at this point.”
Nearly every building, a total of more than two dozen, including barbecue pits, restrooms, pavilions and resident park employee housing sustained damage.
Perhaps the most important building, the Visitors Center, was largely spared by the storm and came out on the other side with merely a few broken windows. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression along with others on the property including three residences.
“The historic buildings that the CCC built definitely showcased their strength in their construction because there was very little damage to those buildings,” said Strickland.