First responders urge evacuation
Bay County first responders, in a news conference Tuesday morning, reiterated that now is the time to act on mandatory evacuation orders issued for Bay County. All residents living in Zones A, B, and C, mobile homes, and low-lying areas should evacuate until the threat has passed.
“This is about saving people’s lives,” Bay County Emergency Services Chief Mark Bowen said. “Anyone under the mandatory evacuation order needs to act now.”
Bowen said the storm surge is forecasted at six to nine feet above ground level; however, the surge forecast just east of Bay County is 12 to 13 feet.
“The eye wall is splitting the eastern half of Bay County,” he said, “and a 30-mile change in the track could increase our storm surge to Hurricane Opal levels. We could see surges even at the levels of Hurricane Florence that recently hit North Carolina.”
Hurricane Michael, Bowen said, is expected to surpass the intensity of Hurricane Ivan that hit Pensacola directly in 2004, causing significant damage to the area. Bay County will provide as many shelters as necessary to ensure the protection of Bay County citizens. He added that all shelters are pet friendly.
“Don’t risk your life or your pet’s life,” he said, “and don’t let a fuel issue prevent you from evacuating your home.” Anyone in need of gasoline or other critical assistance can call the Bay County Citizens Information number at 850-248-6090 for transportation to a shelter.
Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford highlighted that he is very concerned about the apparently low numbers of people evacuating.
“This is not a typical storm, this is a life-threatening event,” Ford said, noting that people should evacuate before conditions deteriorate.
“I don’t want evacuation routes to be a parking lot when tropical storm conditions begin,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Panama City, is also urging residents under mandatory evacuation orders to leave before it’s too late.
“I am in Zone C, and I am following evacuation orders,” Dunn said. “Waiting is not an option, once storm conditions arrive you will not be able to leave or go to a shelter.”
To see the zones, go to our Facebook page: City of Panama City Beach-Government
There are two general population shelters in Bay County, Deane Bozeman School, located at 13410 State 77, Panama City, FL and Northside Elementary located at 2001 Northside Drive, Panama City, FL. Deane Bozeman also has a special needs shelter for those who qualify for services. Northside is on standby for special needs should Deane Bozeman reach capacity.
The shelter does not provide the comfort or convenience of a home or hotel, nor does it provide the level of care found in a medical facility. Snacks will be provided but not full meals. Please bring your own food and medications.
Panama City Beach Public Information Officer Debbie Ward can be reached at (334) 714-6793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.