CHIPLEY - By Thursday, the day after the storm, the sinkholes beneath the waterfall at Falling Waters State Park were completely underwater.
The powerful category 4 storm had dumped enough rain to cover the boardwalk adjacent to the waterfall. And, after the water receded, the wind destruction emerged: downed age-old magnolias, dismantled boardwalks, and once towering trees knocked onto their sides.
"Our biggest thing has been safety, in terms of trees that are leaning," Miller said.
But, as many have observed, the destruction was not irreversible. And by Nov. 1, with no major structural damage to buildings or sites themselves at all, the state park was back opened to guests - at least in a limited capacity.
"We're making good headway and I believe we are getting really close to having the park full-access here shortly," Miller said. "We've got a lot of it cleaned up."
Crews arrived soon afterward, working six days a week, he said.
The campgrounds and the picnic area are still littered with debris and several trees that still obstruct the walkways, making those parts of the park unsafe. But the site's signature attraction - the beautiful 73-foot waterfall, which is fed exclusively by rainwater - is accessible during regular park hours.
"It's been really slow - we haven't had a lot of traffic at all; some days it's only two or three," Miller said. "Most of them are out-of-towners - passing through that need a little break off of the interstate."
He is hopeful as the word gets out about the park reopening, more people will visit. Although all reservations have been canceled, Miller hopes to reopen the full park before Thanksgiving.
"We probably will have some lost of visitation, but I don't think it's going to be a huge impact," said Washington County Tourist Development Council Director Heather Lopez.
Lopez said tourist traffic to the area is typical for this time of year, however, attractions have sustained damages that may impact traffic in the future.
She noted the canoe liveries are closed which is typical this time of year and the Wolf Preserve is back opened and had not canceled its tours.
"We do have a lot of day-trippers that could still come," she added. "Our biggest traffic will still come back and enjoy the things we have because they are already open again."
David Rich, owner of Sunshine Riding Trails, said tourists curiosity about the ravaged landscape initially brought in as high as 10-15 rides per week following the storm. However, now, as people deal with the reality of their losses, rides have dropped to two or three per week.
"This is the time of the year that we're taking local people out," said Rich, who is also a member of the TDC. "The local people, they're so busy dealing with everything right now, they just don't have time for leisure activities."
"I think we're going to lose a lot of people that are moving elsewhere who are never coming back," he added.
Rich and his family, as did Miller and his, hunkered down for the storm. Like countless others, they did not expect the storm to hit as hard as it did.
"My wife and I are fine, our home is fine, our horses came through it fine, but a whole lot of people got it worst than we do," Rich said. "We won't be staying for the next one," he later said.
As far the park, Miller said the estimates of damages have not been assessed just yet in terms of dollars. He said the state is more interested in what it will take to resume operations as normal and restore the natural beauty of the park while making it a safe attraction once again.
"Once we get all of the public areas opened, then we'll step back and try to work on some of the fire hazards in the area," Miller said, noting the timeline to have total restoration and recovery is not yet determined. "It's a day-by-day process. (Crews) are making a lot of headway, but it's hard to judge because weather."
The riding trails, which are 130 miles long, are limited. About five or six miles have been cleared for rides.
I've been posting post-Hurricane Michael trail rides," Rich said, with a light chuckle. "The scenery has changed dramatically. This is what nature does and nature has been doing it a whole lot longer than we have. It's the process."
The Lopez, TDC director, noted bed taxes are high because hotels are full as recovery workers are in the area. And, she noted the end-of-the-year activities - from snowbird tours to regular holiday festivities - will continue as plan.
However, she said Monday morning, "Washington County is not ready to have guests return."
"Our businesses are damaged, roads are still obstructed, and workers are cleaning up," said Lopez, in terms of actively advertising to gain tourism traffic. "It is not a safe environment to invite guests here."