Published: Oct 25, 2010 3:42 AM EDT
Updated: Oct 25, 2010 12:25 AM EDT

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - Locals at the Rock Bottom Bar in Everglade City have a daily reminder of Wilma's stretch of destruction. Owner Leebo Noble marked the water line in the bathroom the night Wilma hit. It filled his bar with debris and mud.

In a town of less than 1,000 where everyone knows each other, residents say it was hard to pack up and leave even though the 100 mph winds were too dangerous to ride out. But Pam Mesce and her husband took the chance.

"It's something that'll never leave your mind. Once you ride one of these storms out. The trees were torn like a tornado had come in and twisted them like a yo yo," said Mesce.

She made it out without losing her home. But many others weren't so lucky. The wind tore the roof right off the Oyster House restaurant.

"There was mud inside the store, salt water. We had shrimp and flounder in our pool," said Robert Miller.

Though the small community felt the brunt of the hurricane, it was responsible for $1 billion in damage across the state. It took weeks for many areas to recover and get electricity.

Whether they stayed to Watch Wilma strike or fled for safety, everyone knows it could have been even more deadly. People who lived through it look back at it as a learning experience and hope they never have to live through anything like it again.