73°F
weather icon Clear

Some gamble, plan to ride out Michael despite evacuation order

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — Timothy Thomas isn’t budging from his home on Ocean View Drive, even though it’s directly in the path of Hurricane Michael.

Thomas, a 50-year-old air conditioning repairman, plans to defy an evacuation order and ride out the monster storm in an apartment that’s just a few hundred yards from the beach and even closer to the tea-colored Grand Lagoon, which will rise as the massive storm pushes ocean water toward the coast of the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday.

An Illinois native with a beard, long hair and a streak of independence, Thomas hasn’t been through a major hurricane before; he’s only lived in Panama City Beach about seven years. A neighbor with far more storm experience is evacuating to higher ground.

But police aren’t being pushy about enforcing the order, and Thomas figures he, his wife and their puppy will be OK since they live in a second-floor apartment. It’s more than 10 feet off the ground, after all, and forecasters say the water in his area isn’t supposed to rise that much. “If it does I guess we’ll be swimming,” he said Tuesday evening as the sky darkened overhead.

Thomas isn’t alone; other residents along his street also plan to take on Michael head-on, even though authorities have told about 120,000 residents of Bay County to leave. Thomas’ first-floor neighbors also plan to stay, and they’re welcome upstairs if the water gets too high, Thomas said. So are his next-door neighbors and their dog.

“We’ve got canned food and a can opener. We have lots of water and food for the dogs, and I’m going to tape up the windows, cover the windows, just tack them up with sheets or whatever, to keep the glass from flying if that happens,” he said.

As Thomas spoke, a hurricane party was going on less than 2 miles away at Buster’s Beer and Bait, a dive bar popular both with locals and tourists who overwhelm the region during the summer. With Michael percolating out in the Gulf of Mexico, dozens of people gathered outside Buster’s as small palm trees swayed in the breeze nearby.

Other places were shut down and locked up. The windows were covered with metal hurricane shutters at Pineapple Willie’s, a popular beachfront restaurant, and sandbags blocked the entrance to a Wells Fargo bank. Plywood covered the front at Shrimp City, a small seafood market.

Dwight Williams, who lives across the street from Thomas, wasn’t taking any chances — he and his wife were packing to evacuate. They plan to stay with friends in DeFuniak Springs, a Panhandle town about 30 miles inland. Their single-story home is built to withstand winds blowing up to 130 mph, Williams said, but rising water is scary.

“What worries me is the storm surge,” said Williams, who has lived on the street about 24 years.

Thomas said relatives in Illinois had urged him to leave and stay with them, but he didn’t have a way to get so far north so quickly, and shelters aren’t a good option in his view.

“You never know who you’re sleeping beside,” he said. “Here, I do.”

So Thomas and his wife will stay put. And once the wind stops howling and the water recedes, Thomas will await the natural outcome of a hurricane for someone who works in the air conditioning business in a place known for hot, humid summers.

“After all the air conditioners go under water, we’ll be busy,” he said.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Pilot in fatal Hawaii plane crash had risk-taking history, report says

The pilot of a plane that crashed and killed all 11 on board had a history of taking unnecessary risks and pushing the limits of his skills to give passengers an exciting ride, witnesses told federal officials.

100K evacuated as 80 mph winds whip California fires

Forecasts called for Santa Ana winds up to 50 to 80 mph at times over much of Southern California, with some of the strongest gusts howling through Orange County, where two blazes sped through brushy hills near major urban centers.

Barrett sworn in as newest Supreme Court justice

Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in on Monday as the latest justice of the United States Supreme Court, the fifth woman to serve on the bench and President Trump’s third appointment.

60K to evacuate after Southern California blaze grows

A fast-moving wildfire has forced evacuations for 60,000 people in Southern California as powerful winds across the state prompted power to be cut to hundreds of thousands to prevent utility equipment from sparking new blazes.

Mike Pence’s top aide tests positive for coronavirus

A spokesman says Vice President Mike Pence will continue with his aggressive campaign schedule after his chief of staff, Marc Short, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday.

Murkowski backs Barrett as confirmation vote looms

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett won crucial backing Saturday when one of the last Republican holdouts against filling the seat during an election season announced support for President Donald Trump’s pick ahead of a confirmation vote expected Monday.

60,000 travelers arrive in Hawaii with pre-travel testing

Hawaii had about 60,000 travelers arrive in the islands in the first week of its pre-travel coronavirus testing program, a state effort to get the tourism-based economy moving again amid the pandemic.

FDA approves remdesivir to treat COVID-19

U.S. regulators on Thursday approved the first drug to treat COVID-19: remdesivir, an antiviral medicine given to hospitalized patients through an IV.

Slain Utah student’s family receives $13.5M settlement

The parents of a University of Utah track athlete who was killed by her ex-boyfriend on campus two years ago reached a $13.5 million settlement Thursday with the university, which acknowledged that it didn’t handle the woman’s case properly.