Hurricane Michael also hit communities in the Carolinas

“It would buck like an airplane wing,” he said from his residence in Cleveland, Tenn. “I kept expecting to see it tear off.”

But it didn’t. When The New York Times published an analysis of aerial images showing a mile-long stretch of Mexico Beach where at least three-quarters of the buildings were damaged, Dr. Lackey saw his sand palace still standing, majestic amid the apocalyptic wreckage, the last surviving beachfront house on his block.

“We wanted to build it for the big one,” he said. “We just never knew we’d find the big one so fast.”

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