Hurricane Michael was the strongest hurricane to hit the United States coast in October since we have been recording hurricane strength. The powerful storm kept gaining strength the closer that it got to shore before it plowed into Florida thirty miles east of Panama City in the Mexico Beach area. Maximum wind gusts were clocked at 155 miles per hour. That is a very strong Category 4 storm. A hurricane with wind gusts of 157 miles per hour or more is classed as a Category 5.
President Donald J. Trump (R) called Governor Kay Ivey Wednesday to check on the storm situation.
“Appreciate @POTUS for calling me to check on weather conditions in Alabama as we deal with #HurricaneMichael,” Gov. Ivey said on Twitter. “I told him his team at @fema has been very helpful in preparing for the impact of this storm.”
President Trump said, “Federal resources are on the ground at every level.”
Gov. Ivey visited the state’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Wednesday to monitor the situation.
The Alabama EMA says that 60,000 people in Alabama do not have power due to the storm. The Weather Channel reports that as of press time 200,000 people in Georgia and 300,000 people in Florida do not have power.
Gov. Ivey has warned citizens to stay away from downed power lines and not to drive over flooded roads. State officials will be out this morning to get better assessments of the damage. The Tallahassee International Airport has reopened to military traffic and will open to commercial traffic by the middle of today.
Florida authorities ordered over 430,000 people to evacuate; but thousands of people ignored the warnings and decided to shelter in place. Catastrophic property damage is being reported across the Florida panhandle.
State Senator Harri Anne Smith (I-Dothan) said on Facebook, “I am getting calls from first responders in our area who are receiving face book post from people who are trapped and need help in Panama City . The post all say that they can’t get through to 911 in Florida. I have talked with State officials from Florida and confirmed that the situation in Panama City is very very bad. Verizon is down which has cut off communications. So if you are trying to reach someone Communications are not working. Apparently if I understood correctly 911 is down. I have just confirmed that there is no way for people to call for help. I 10 is blocked and it will be morning before help arrives to that area. There is major damage to the hospitals also. I know a lot of you have friends and family in that area and this is not the news you wanted to hear but help us on the way. We all need to stop and say a prayer for our beach neighbors tonight. May God be with them through the night.”
The White House is advising persons in the storm affected area to register themselves as “Safe and well” on the American Red Cross’s safe and well website.
Concerned family and friends can search the list of those who have registered themselves as “safe and well” on the website.
“This morning I participated in a conference call with FEMA, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, and others for an update on Hurricane Michael and emergency response efforts,” Congresswoman Martha Roby (Montgomery said on social media). “My office is engaged as the severe weather continues to impact parts of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.”
“Emergency workers and utility crews will be incredibly busy over the next several days,” Rep. Roby said. “Please only call 911 if you have a life-threatening emergency. Stay away from downed power lines, and do not travel over flooded roads.”
(Original reporting by the Weather Channel contributed to this report.)