Now it lies in splinters.
Hit head-on by Hurricane Michael, homes in the town of about 1,190 people were shattered or ripped from their foundations. Boats were tossed like toys. The streets closest to the water looked as if a bomb had gone off.
What the 9-foot storm surge didn’t destroy, the 155 mph (250 kph) winds finished off.
Now, rescuers and residents are struggling to get into the ground-zero town to assess the damage and search for the hundreds of people believed to have stayed behind.