Be Smart: Lessons From Opal
Many local residents can remember when Hurricane Opal ravaged Panama City on October 4, 1995. Possibly many more weren’t here back then, and haven’t experienced a hurricane before.
Be Smart: Lessons Learned from Opal
- If you are in one of the mandatory evacuation zones (currently A. B, and C for Hurricane Michael), and you haven’t left yet, please do so as soon as possible. It’s better to come back alive, even if Panama City doesn’t sustain much damage. You and your family aren’t worth putting at risk.
- Pack up enough items for a few days for your family and your pets, remember important documents, and leave. During Opal, thousands of people were sitting in traffic on major highways … in a hurricane. I had a map with me, got off I-10, and took lesser traveled roads to the hotel we booked.
- When bridges close, you can’t evacuate. Many people wanted to leave when they saw Opal’s fury, but it was too late. When the bridges close, you can’t leave.
- Tornadoes and storm surge are big dangers. You don’t want to be home when you hear something that sounds like a roaring train, or watch helplessly as groundwater approaches your home. You got it, leave.
- If you evacuate, do not return until told to. Everyone wants to get home as quickly as possible, to see how their home and property fared. But after Opal, checkpoints were set up with ATF officers … with guns. Everyone returning, once given permission, had to show I.D. in order to be able to drive into their neighborhood.
- Those returning home without authorization were arrested. Some people become indignant at needing permission to return home. But with dangerous downed electrical lines, unknown debris and critters in flood waters, and curfews … yes, you do need permission.
- Enjoy your family. If you’re in another city, or here with no power, embrace the moment to build memories with your family. During Opal, I took the kids out of town while Steve stayed in a safe zone, so he could be ready to help people with water damage. Instead of staying glued to the T.V., we did fun things together.
- Once home, you are responsible to mitigate damage. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to let the water sit in your home until your insurance company authorizes mitigation procedures. It’s your responsibility to prevent further damage as much as possible, including mold damage.
- Be aware of bacteria in flood water. Rugs, pads, upholstered furniture, and mattresses need to be replaced after contamination from flood groundwater. It’s not worth you or anyone in your family getting sick from mold and other contaminants.
- Don’t underestimate mold. With power outages, conditions become ripe for mold to grow within 24-48 hours–warm temperatures, high humidity, lack of air movement, darkness, and food (wood, organic matter, etc.).
- Call in the experts. If your home has water intrusion, play it safe. Call a certified, experienced company to dry your home quickly, and to search for mold conditions. There are several in Bay County, including Daystar Cleaning and Restoration, 850-769-0606.