(WJHL)-Hurricane Michael will forever remain engraved in my mind meteorologically and personally. I worked at a TV station in Panama City Beach, FL at the time.
Four days before landfall, Michael wasn’t even a tropical storm. It was forecast to hit Northwest Florida as a strong tropical storm.
Two days later, Michael was barely a hurricane and expected to make landfall as a major category 3 hurricane.
The day before Hurricane Michael hit it was time to leave my fianceé at the time. I told her it’d be at least 3 days before I came hot. It turns out I stayed at work for 5 days straight and slept when I could at the station.
I couldn’t get a hold of my fianceé for more than 24 hours because the storm severed communications.
Just look at how my messaging on social media changed from being a little more optimistic to very urgent and concerned for the safety of Panhandle residents.
I started getting extremely worried 24 hours before landfall. I became emotional during one of my television weathercasts staring at a then strengthening category 2 hurricane because I knew it would cause heartache, death, and destruction.
It ended up making landfall Wednesday just east of Panama City, FL as a category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 160 mph with extreme winds and storm surge battering the Panhandle for 3 hours. At least 25 people lost their lives in Panama City.
The damage was extreme or catastrophic for a span of 70 miles to the east and to the north of Panama City. Trees got snapped like nothing.
Homes and buildings were shredded into rubble like they were playhouses. Lives were forever changed, and a new normal began one year ago.
In the days following the catastrophe, it didn’t matter how we got the message out at the TV station, we just had to get it out no matter how it looked or how we looked.
After Hurricane Michael, I will never take Mother Nature for granted ever again and it has encouraged me to always take my duties as a TV meteorologist even more seriously.
So many people are still struggling to get back on their feet in the Panama City area, but I learned they are #PanhandleStrong. I have now been blessed to share my knowledge with residents in the Tri-Cities area for the last 10 months.