PANAMA CITY (CBSMiami) – Hurricane Michael, an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, will bring life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall along the state’s Panhandle when it makes landfall later today.
Beaches along the Panhandle and Big Bend are empty after thousands of people evacuated ahead of the storm.
“The time to evacuate is coming to a rapid close, we’re already seeing water bands inundate many parts of the Florida Panhandle, that means the water starting to pile up along the coast too. Storm surge is what we’re most worried about, that’s why we’re asking people to evacuate,” said FEMA administrator Brock Long early Wednesday morning.
Some residents of Panama City, however, have chosen to ignore the warning and are staying put, saying they’ve been through worse.
“People jump and run and they should do that, but we’ve just been through so many and we are comfortable staying so we are going to. We got enough food and generator, gas,” said Panama City resident Eric Henderson.
Stanley West owns the Riverside Cafe in Saint Marks. He typically reopens right after a storm passes, like he did earlier this year after Alberto.
“We’ve been cookin’ the whole time,” he said.
West said he’s more concerned about Michael.
“This one is just one we’re not going to take a chance on. Usually, we get skirted by and we have a little bit of room,” he said.
Most businesses along the upper Gulf Coast have boarded up, hoping it’s enough to stop a storm surge that could hit 13 feet.
“I’m just a little nervous, so I figured I’d better, you know, put a little extra effort into it and try to feel a little more comfortable,” said Tom Conklin, who boarded up his beachfront gift shop in Panama City Beach.
First responders from around the country are on their way here to help, many of them, like the teams from Miami Fire Rescue and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, were in the Carolinas just last month for Hurricane Florence.
“No matter how hard they`ve been beat down and worked, if another storm is coming or another national emergency, they step up to the plate,” said Mike Pruitt with Indiana Task Force One.
President Trump was briefed last night on the storm’s possible impacts. The White House says the federal government will be available to support the state and local response efforts.