Hurricane Michael Headed to Florida Panhandle

The Weather Channel reports that Hurricane Michael may be the strongest storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in thirteen years, with dangerous storm surge, damaging winds, and flooding rain likely along the northeast Gulf Coast.

I’ve ridden out a few hurricanes in my life here along the Gulf Coast. Category 1, 2, and even 3 storms, although still wreaking havoc, I’ve withstood. Above that, my initial reaction is RUN!

Mandatory evacuations have already been issued for some areas in Bay and surrounding counties. Stores are out of supplies and gas has become hard to come by. The roads are already heavy with the traffic of people headed out of the danger zone.

My husband and I, have decided to ride this one out. In preparation for Michael, we’ve stocked up on water, batteries, non-perishable foods, candles and hope. We’ve boarded up windows, tied down outdoor furniture, placed plants out of harm’s way, and made sure flying debris won’t be a problem. The only thing we don’t have control over is the multitude of mature and old trees in our area.

In past storms, our area of Bay County has been without power for days, sometimes weeks. While generators help with that, if you wait until you need one, like now, it’s already too late. They’re sold out or marked up because of the high demand.

Deciding to stay during a hurricane is no easy decision. We’ve done so in the past, but we’ve evacuated a time or two as well.

The problem usually arises when people wait too long to leave and then get stuck in traffic trying to evacuate. The last place you want to be is in your car on the road when the storm hits! There’s a fine line between planning to evacuate and “hitting the road” early enough to get somewhere safe and “waiting to see what the storm does” only to find you’ve waited too late to leave.

If you are leaning towards evacuating, I suggest making arrangements for accommodations right away. Hotel rooms become hard to come by the longer you wait. You can always cancel within the 48- to 72-hour window most hotels offer, without being penalized.

Since we’ve decided to stay, we’re owning it at this point. Come what may, John and I will be “hunkered” down at home, praying things don’t go from really bad to catastrophic. We’re also praying that Michael  loses steam before he actually makes landfall!

Emergency preparedness is something we take seriously in this area. Our location along the Gulf Coast puts us in the potential path for more than one direct hit during Hurricane Season each year. We’ve been lucky in the last decade to escape with minimum to no effects. But, I guess our time is due, as Michael doesn’t look all that indecisive at the moment.

There are a number of steps to take when preparing for a storm, and for Hurricane Season in general. It’s best to prepare early before the season even starts so you’re not waylaid when imminent danger threatens. The following five resources are ones I have used successfully and that can help you prepare in advance, as well as guide you through the actual storm and the aftermath.

1. The National Hurricane Survival Initiative provides downloadable checklists that are helpful and easy to use.

2. Ready.Gov provides steps to take during any natural disaster including hurricanes with being informed, plan ahead and take action links that are informative and useful.

3. The National Hurrican Center hosts a Hurricane Preparedness Week annually and their Be Ready campaign is a great tool with a lot of pertinent information on how to prepare and take action.

4. FEMA updates its Proper Emergency Kit Essentials to Hurricane Preparedness annually. A must for anyone wishing to stock up and prepare ahead of time.

5. The American Red Cross has an entire section dedicated to hurricane preparedness. It includes downloadable and printable checklists on what to do before, during and after the storm. Although they advocate for advanced preparation, they have useful sections to guide you through an imminent threat, as well as the aftermath.

There are a number of other resources available out there, but these are my “go to” for preparing each year, and especially if, like now, we’re in the direct path of a storm.

As Micahel continues on to barrel down, I pray for all those in his path. May God keep us all safe during the storm.

~ Jennifer Nelson Fenwick (© 2018)