Hurricane Michael: Florida Panhandle Hospitals Brace For The Storm
Update, 8:30 a.m. CST, Oct. 10, 2018
After gathering speed and intensity, Hurricane Michael is tearing towards the Florida Panhandle and increased in strength Wednesday morning. As of 8 a.m. CST, Michael was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane with top sustained winds of 145 mph.
Forecasters have said Michael could be the strongest storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in history, affecting nearly 30 million people in the Southeast.
New forecasts expect Michael to make landfall Wednesday afternoon. Along with devastating wind speeds, storm surge predictions also increased to 14 feet and forecasters warn of flash flooding in Florida, southern Alabama and Georgia.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and emergency response officials have advised any residents who have not already evacuated need to hunker down, as it’s too late to leave the area.
“The time for evacuating along the coast has come and gone,” Gov. Scott said in a Twitter post. “First responders will not be able to come out in the middle of the storm. If you chose to stay in an evacuation zone, you must SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY.”
You can find online resources for emergency preparedness and help here:
- Find open shelters here: https://www.floridadisaster.org/shelter-status/
- Free housing for evacuees and disaster responders available through Airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/welcome/evacuees/hurricanemichael
- Report significant debris from the storm: https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/466259a6f3fc41e58bb3f651e59e3bd1
- App for emergency updates on the storm: http://fpbs.org/get-emergency-info-on-free-florida-storms-mobile-phone-app/
- Find out current traffic conditions: https://fl511.com/App
Hurricane Michael, a major hurricane with winds up to 120 mph, is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon near Panama City, covering most of Florida’s Panhandle region, according to current hurricane models.
The National Hurricane Center expects life-threatening storm surge—up to 12 feet in some areas—along the coast of the Florida Panhandle, Big Bend and Nature Coast regions. Hurricane-force winds from Michael will extend across parts of the Panhandle, southern Georgia and southeast Alabama.
Unlike Hurricane Florence in September which stalled on the Carolina coast dumping record-breaking rainfalls, Michael is expected to move quickly through the Panhandle and curve northeast, moving through Georgia by Thursday afternoon. The storm could also intensify to a Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall, carrying winds of up to 130 mph.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a pre-landfall state of emergency for 35 Florida counties to secure federal assistance and encourage residents to evacuate before the storm hits. Scott also activated 2,500 National Guard members for storm response, he said during a press conference Tuesday.
Florida health officials communicated with healthcare facilities and nursing homes Monday afternoon to prepare for the storm, Scott said. After Hurricane Irma hit last year, 14 people died in South Florida when a nursing home lost power and air conditioning.
“The Florida Department of Health has five ambulance strike teams and 35 special needs shelter teams ready to deploy,” Scott said. “The expectations are: If you’re responsible for a patient, you’re responsible for the safety of that patient through this entire storm.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, several healthcare facilities in the path of the storm activated emergency response procedures, canceling or rescheduling outpatient and elective procedures. Some facilities in the Tallahassee area are monitoring the storm before activating emergency response declarations. Flowers Hospital in Dothan, Alabama is closing all of outpatient departments on Wednesday, according to a WDHN report.
In response to the storm, the Department of Health issued an emergency order allowing healthcare professionals with a valid, unrestricted and unencumbered license in any state, territory, or district to render services in Florida during a 30-day period, according to Gov. Scott’s website.
Florida became a compact nursing license state this year but does not normally allow for quick temporary licenses. The Florida Board of Nursing office, located in Tallahassee, will be closed until Thursday, according to their voicemail message.
Travelers entering the state should be aware that major highways designated as evacuation routes could be congested with evacuees and could affect their access to locations along the Panhandle.
Hurricane Safety Checklist
Regardless of where you are located or if you’re working at a hospital during the storm, your first priority is to have a disaster plan in place to protect yourself and your family in a time of crisis.
The American Red Cross has provided a hurricane safety checklist that has everything you can do to prepare for the storm and respond to the aftermath. We’ve provided a PDF of the checklist below, but you can also download or view it here: Hurricane Checklist
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