Hospitals shutting down, storm surge starting ahead of Major Hurricane Michael

(Photo: NOAA)

Less than 18 hours away from landfall on Florida’s northern Gulf coast, Michael, a Category 3 major hurricane, is forcing more operations to shut down or adjust, including hospitals.

Okaloosa County announced on Twitter that Destin ER is closed. Sacred Heart in Destin will keep its ER open, but will not accept new patients. Current patients are being transferred to hospitals in Pensacola, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. Eglin Air Force Base hospital and ER are closed. Their patients have been transferred to Ft. Walton Beach hospitals. The Florida Division of Emergency Management is also working overtime to ensure the ongoing health care and safety of patients.

WFXL-TV in Albany, Georgia reports that several hospitals in the southwest part of the state are also taking appropriate steps for the safety of their staffs and patients.

Even though Michael is still way out at sea, it’s forward movement is steady. Tropical storm force winds of 39-73 mph are only 80 miles from the coast.

Christina Nabors has noticed and has been keeping tabs on water levels which are already rising. She’s the manager of Water Street Hotel & Marina in Apalachicola, Florida, an area expected to one of the hardest hit. She told CNN the water moved up to the base of the hotel two hours before high tide early Tuesday evening.

“This is not normal, not normal at all. I have never seen it this high,” said Nabors.

It’s only going to get worse. The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center still has Michael making landfall near Panama City Beach, Florida in the early afternoon hours of Wednesday. It’s currently 255 miles south of that city. It could become even stronger, increasing to a Category 4 storm with winds of 130-156 mph. A Category 3 or 4 will cause widespread, catastrophic destruction including power outages and damage to buildings and structures, and flooding from heavy rain and massive storm surge.

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Nick Austin, Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist

In his 17 years of weather forecasting experience, Nick worked on air at WBBJ-TV and WRCB-TV, including time spent doing weather analysis and field reporting. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from Georgia Institute of Technology. Nick is also a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” for eight consecutive years. Nick earned his National Weather Association Broadcasting Seal in 2005.