Streets Closed, Hospitals Evacuated as ‘Monster’ Hurricane Michael Bears Down on Apalachicola

10 a.m. Hurricane Michael update

Franklin County Emergency Management Director Pamela Brownell said U.S. Highway 98, between Eastpoint and Carrabelle, was likely to be destroyed by storm surge.

“It’s gone,” she predicted.

She said as Michael barreled down on the coastline, she received a call from St. George Island from someone who stayed and wanted to get off the island.

She advised that trying to drive across the bridge could prove troubling. Emergency officials would not be making rescues.

“If something happens to them, they’re on their own,” Brownell said. “We can’t put first responders’ lives in jeopardy when they made a personal decision to stay. The worst is yet to come.”

Normally bustling with people and vibrant shops, Apalachicola is boarded up and covered in rushing water hours before Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall.

A portion of the U.S. Highway 98 bridge is covered in water, said Sheriff A.J. Smith, who warned that this was only the beginning.

“I’m very concerned. I’ve been through a lot of hurricanes and this one is very concerning to me,” Smith said. “We’re having 25-30 mph winds and we’re just getting into it. I can only imagine when these winds hit triple digits and this water continues to rise.”

He estimated that if the storm surge continued to inundate the coastal areas, there would likely be roads washed out.

Smith said deputies noticed people riding around during the beginning of the storm. Starting Wednesday a sunrise to sunset curfew would be in effect.

“If you are out you will be arrested. Let this be your warning,” he said.

A main concern is that there are no medical services in the county after Weems Hospital in Apalachicola was evacuated and closed.

“We want people to stay home and be safe,” Smith said. “There will be no emergency medical services if you get injured and you will be on your own.”

Original story

APALACHICOLA — Hurricane Michael strengthened overnight to a deadly Category 4 storm and is projected by the National Hurricane Center to continue getting stronger before making landfall somewhere near Panama City Beach.

For Florida’s Panhandle and the Big Bend, the accompanying 145 mph winds and 9 to 12 feet of storm surge could be catastrophic.

Bridges throughout Franklin County closed Tuesday night as tropical storm force winds approached the coast and Michael slogged north.

By Wednesday morning loose debris littered the streets of Apalachicola and more than a half dozen roads were closed because they were under water.

 

Franklin County Emergency Management Director Pamela Brownell said the state strike team was on standby to assist once the storm passed, but that may not be until Thursday morning.

“We want to make sure that they know they’ve got packages coming, they’ve got search and rescue, basically everything we need is sitting on ready,” Brownell said from the EOC in Apalachicola. “As soon as they can get in here, they will get in here.”

She said Tuesday night a final warning to evacuate was issued across the county as Michael ballooned in size and winds strengthened.

About 50 people remained on St. George Island, 10 stayed on Alligator Point and two people stayed on Dog Island, a barrier island only accessible by boat.

“We told them, it’s time to leave or put on a life jacket,” Brownell said.

Brownell said U.S. Highway 98, between Eastpoint and Carrabelle was likely to be destroyed by storm surge.

“It’s gone,” she predicted.

She said as Michael barreled down on the coastline, she received a call from St. George Island from someone who stayed and wanted to get off the island.

She advised that trying to drive across the bridge could prove troubling. Emergency officials would not be making rescues.

“If something happens to them, they’re on their own,” Brownell said. “We can’t put first responders lives in jeopardy when they made a personal decision to stay. The worst is yet to come.”

Before sunrise Wednesday, Water Street in Apalachicola was closed due to high water and several trees were reported down across the city. Portions of Alligator Drive on Alligator Point were under water, a transformer fire was reported and a tree was cleared after falling across U.S. Highway 98.

Malinda Dempsey stayed in Apalachicola, just three blocks from the river, which is expected to crest a possible 12 feet.

That’s her biggest concern.

“I’m very anxious and nervous,” she said at about 5:30 a.m. as she watched sideways rain and debris blow down the street.

She, her son Wesley and his uncle decided to stay. Their house sits on the highest point in the small, coastal fishing town. Dempsey said in her 46 years, she has left once for a hurricane – when she was 12 years old.

“We’ve gone through storms like this all our lives,” she said. “These houses have been here a very, very long time and they’ve seen many storms. It’s just the surge I’m worried about. Not the wind. Not the lightning. It’s the water.”

Normally bustling with people and vibrant shops, Apalachicola is boarded up and covered in rushing water hours before Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall.

A portion of the U.S. Highway 98 bridge is covered in water, said Sheriff A.J. Smith, who warned that this was only the beginning.

“I’m very concerned. I’ve been through a lot of hurricanes and this one is very concerning to me,” Smith said. “We’re having 25-30 mph winds and we’re just getting into it. I can only imagine when these winds hit triple digits and this water continues to rise.”

He estimated that if the storm surge continued to inundate the coastal areas, there would likely be roads washed out.

Smith said deputies noticed people riding around during the beginning of the storm. Starting Wednesday a sunrise to sunset curfew would be in effect

“If you are out you will be arrested. Let this be your warning,” he said.

A main concern is that there are no medical services in the county after Weems Hospital in Apalachicola was evacuated and closed.

“We want people to stay home and be safe,” Smith said. “There will be no emergency medical services if you get injured and you will be on your own.”

SOURCE: Tallahassee, by