Hurricane Michael Impacts Former Valley Residents and Their Families
Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach on the Florida panhandle Wednesday around noon our time. Winds of 155 miles per hour ripped apart homes as heavy rains flooded streets, creating life-threatening situations. An estimated 30 million people in the Southeast are in the path of what's being called the worst storm to ever hit the Florida panhandle.
A hurricane of this magnitude affects so many - from Florida to Alabama, Arizona, and right here in the LC Valley.
Michael was the most powerful hurricane to blow ashore on the U.S. mainland since Camille in 1969, based on its internal barometric pressure, and it is the fourth strongest -- behind Andrew in 1992 -- based on wind speed.
Sharon Liming was lucky enough to be able to speak with her niece, who stayed as Michael hit her hometown of Panama City Beach. "She said so far they still have phone service."
The former Lewiston resident's niece works at Resorts Beach Hotel in Panama City Beach, one of the hardest hit areas in Michael's path. "She and her family and friends and the employees of the hotel are staying on the 7th floor," Sharon says.
Around 400,000 people along the Gulf Coast, like Sharon's niece, were urged to evacuate. As Michael made landfall at Mexico Beach, about 40 miles from Panama City, time ran out. Florida Governor Rick Scott released a message to those still in the storm's path on Wednesday. "You've waited too long. You've got to hunker down, you've got to get shelter as quick as you can."
"You know, I'm concerned," Sharon said in a phone call from her home in Mesa, Arizona. "I'm concerned. I was real disappointed they didn't evacuate."
Allison Gordon lived in the Lewis-Clark Valley for around 20 years before moving to Panama City a little over a year ago. Now she's at her parent's home in Alabama - another state seeing impacts of Michael.
"I'm sitting on the screened- in porch right now watching the rain," Allison said on the phone Wednesday morning. "The rain is kind of raining sideways. I've watched several limbs drop."
She's also been watching on social media, helplessly witnessing the devastation in her city. "We live about a mile from a Walmart and I saw a video on Facebook that their parking lot had water in it."
A possible storm surge of 13-feet has her most concerned. "You can predict winds and things, but this storm surge is mostly what scared me. You get trapped by water," Allison explained. "We sit at 11 feet above sea level so I'm really nervous.""
"When that storm surge comes in you have no control over it," Governor Scott told CBS News. "There's so much pressure. It pushes everything in and sucks everything out."
From Mesa, Arizona, Sharon Liming awaits word from her niece, who is there in a hotel built to withstand hurricanes.
Allison says she won't leave her parents in Alabama until they know the bridges are safe, but she can't help but think of what she'll come home to. Or what she won't.
"Scared. Wondering what we're going to have to go home to," she says, emotion choking her voice. "You know, I can't help but cry a little bit, but it's only possessions. I have guilt for what I had to leave behind, but the biggest thing is my husband, me, and my pets."