A huge response effort has been organized and is ready to provide aid after powerful Hurricane Michael moves through the Florida Panhandle.
Florida Governor Rick Scott on Wednesday warned residents to stay safe.
“This is the worst storm that our Florida Panhandle has seen in a century,” said Scott during a news conference. “Hurricane Michael is upon us and now is the time to seek refuge.”
Scott warned residents of the Florida Panhandle to not put their lives in danger as the area began to feel the impact of Michael.
“Now the storm is here, it is not safe to travel across the Panhandle. If you are in a coastal area, do not leave your house. The time to evacuate in coastal areas has come and gone,” said Scott.
“If you made the choice not to evacuate, please find a place to shelter, seek a place of refuge. If it is not safe to leave your home, don’t leave,” he said. “The worst thing you can do now is leave and put yourself and your family in danger.”
The governor also said that about 50 people remain on an island in Franklin County as of Tuesday afternoon. Deputies went to talk to them and they refused to evacuate. “I’m scared to death for them. I hope nobody keeps any kids down anywhere. It’s one thing for an adult to make a decision, I just hope no one made the decision for a child.”
Scott said Hurricane Michael will cause much destruction. “Along our coast communities are going to see unimaginable devastation.”
Flooding will be an issue, Scott warned that people should prepare for major flooding. Some areas could see up to 12” of rain. 9 to 13 feet tall storm surge is also predicted, water could easily rise above the roofs of houses. “Remember, we can rebuild your house but we cannot rebuild your life. Take this seriously, keep your family safe.”
State and federal officials have been organizing response following the storm. “As soon as Michael passes, we will have a massive wave of response and support coming down and around the Panhandle,” Scott said.
“We’ll have more than 1,000 search and rescue personnel deploying immediately after Michael passes. We now have 3,500 National Guard members activated and staged. These soldiers are absolutely ready to help.”
135 FWC officers are ready for deployment and will respond with a variety of specialized equipment including shallow raft boats, ATVs, air boats, and 4-wheel drive vehicles.
100 FHP troopers have been pre-positioned at locations in the state. Nearly 300 troopers are available for deployment across the Panhandle.
“Law enforcement and National Guard around our state are heroes,” said Scott. “Many will be leaving their families and placing themselves in danger during this storm to help others. We are so grateful for their dedication.”
F-DOT has crews staged to help clear roads after the storm so aid can arrive.
Trucks are already loaded with many tons of food and water. 18 ambulance strike teams are ready with 90 ambulances. Medical staff, doctors and nurses are also ready.
Hurricane Michael is expected to cause major power outages. Scott said 19,000 people are staged and ready to begin power restoration. “Getting power back on is absolutely critical to our recovery and response effort and it is a top priority,” said Scott.
As for gas, Scott said there are no widespread fuel shortages or outages at this time. He said after the storm, crews will move fuel to areas where it is needed. Residents can download the app “Gas Buddy” to see where gas is available.
54 shelters are also open across the Panhandle and Big Bend and more will open, depending on the need.
Scott said that during disasters Floridians take care of each other. “We’ve seen that time and time again. Floridians are strong, Floridians are resilient, there is nothing our state can’t recover from because there is no state that cares, loves or comes together like Florida. Hurricane Michael cannot beat Florida.”