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Tallahassee photographer captures memories lost in Hurricane Michael

Posted at 6:33 PM, Oct 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-10 18:33:56-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — One of the most important things people lose in hurricanes like Hurricane Michael are their pictures. For one local photographer, she was able to reunite a family with their photo.

And while Dina Ivory's beach house is gone, she captured lots of fond memories in the 18 years she had it.

Dina Ivory bought her home in 2000. She wanted a place where her family could enjoy the coast and Mexico Beach was the perfect fit.

"Very quiet, small, everybody knows everybody who lives there," Ivory explained. "It was just a dream to have a beach house."

Little did she know, Hurricane Michael would turn her dream into a nightmare.

"I was at my home on Mexico Beach, went down with the grandkids and the A/C had broken, so I was devastated," said Ivory.

A broken air conditioner would be the least of her worries.

"Nobody knew it was going to be a Category 5, and I'm thinking, 'That house has been there since 1973, it's going to be fine,'" Ivory said.

The walls of her beach house couldn't hold up to the 160 mile per hour winds. Days later, the longtime photographer saw the most shocking photos she'd ever seen.

"I was devastated, and I'm seeing stuff in the house that were in the trees," said Ivory. "The only thing that was left of my house is the concrete porch where we'd hang out, a porch, the only thing left. Everything else was flattened. Gone!"

It took five months before she could return to Mexico Beach and what she saw in person was worse than any picture could capture.

"My mouth was just ... I didn't say anything because it looked like a bomb went off, like an atomic bomb, not a little bomb, everywhere," Ivory explained.

But in the bad, there's a little good. This crab sign that hung on Dina's front porch was later found in the debris.

"They brought it to me, and that's basically what I have left, that's it!" Ivory said. "And I'll cherish it forever."

Also found in all the rubble was a family portrait taken by Dina 20 years ago, returned by someone who hoped to find its owner.

"But I told her do not change the frame, because the frame was wrecked, horrible, but the portrait was still perfect," Ivory explained. "Somebody would look at it and go what a yonky frame on a portrait, but it survived Hurricane Michael."

Dina hasn't been back to visit her house. She says there's no reason to go back there, because it's too sad. Her estimation is that it'll be 10 years before Mexico Beach will be livable again.