Florida News Station Reports Damage

By: WJHG TV Panama City, Florida
By: WJHG TV Panama City, Florida

Two persons are dead in Bay County and five are dead in Calhoun County as a string of tornados roared through Northwest Florida late Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night. The twisters were spawned by Hurricane Ivan.

Calhoun County Emergency Management Director Sonny O’Brien confirmed for NewsChannel Seven that five persons were killed north of the Blountstown area off Highway 69A Wednesday night.

O’Brien says the twister struck “multiple homes” and those killed were in
different houses. It occurred around 8 PM Wednesday. He also said there were numerous injuries but he could not give a firm number.

In a 12:30 AM interview Thursday morning O’Brien say there was so much damage over a scattered area that rescue workers had not yet been able to reach all of the injured.

Other details are not immediately available.

Meanwhile in Bay County there were about a dozen tornados in a little more than an hour, and they stretched from one end of the county to the other. One person died on Allenton Road in the Sandy Creek area when a twister demolished two houses. The second fatality came at Panama City Beach in an area off Thomas Drive near North Lagoon.

The man killed at Panama City Beach was identified as 84 year old John
Martin, a long time local resident. He was visiting at his daughter’s real
estate firm, Marty Martin Real Estate on Thomas Drive when the tornado
struck.

The fatality at Sandy Creek was identified as 77 year old Nancy King. She was killed when the tornado demolished her home.

In addition, seven people were injured including two Bay County sheriff’s deputies.

Damage was reported to be major in the area off Thomas Drive and North Lagoon Drive.

Sheriff Frank McKeithen told NewsChannel seven Hamilton’s restaurant was heavily damaged, a number of businesses and homes in that area were demolished. McKeithen says two deputies and several customers were inside Hamiltons at the time the twister hit and had to hang on to keep from being sucked out of the building.

Other tornados were reported in Callaway in the area around South Berthe and Boatrace where damage was major… In parker south of Highway 22A there was another twister that caused heavy damage… Harrison and 19th and Harrison at 7th, plus the area around the News Herald on West 11th Street and on east Business 98 near the main PC Fire Station also saw twisters.

Bay County Emergency Management Director Bob Majka says at least 200 homes received heavy damage or were destroyed.

Bay County School officials say two local schools have damage, Parker and Patronis Elementary Schools, but the extent isn’t known yet

Other tornados were reported near Wewahitchka and Overstreet in Gulf County where several different storms were sighted. A tornado was sighted near Highway 79 and Back Beach Road and several were in the Bayou George area.

A waterspout moved ashore at St. Joe Beach in Gulf County causing some minor damage.

A Curfew has been put into effect from 9 PM Wednesday night to 7 AM Thursday morning here in Bay County

A rash of twisters is also striking Jackson and Holmes Counties.

A twister also struck the Federal Prison at Marianna and there was damage to a fence, but the damage there was reported to be limited.

3 mobile home parks in Jackson County were hit by tornados. A total of 35 trailers were destroyed and four people were injured. There was also a report of a mobile home park in the Cypress community being struck by a twister. Details of that incident were not immediately available.

A Big tornado struck at Esto in Holmes County Wednesday Night. Initial
reports say the path of destruction is nearly a mile long. A number of
structures were damaged and a number of livestock were killed. It’s not
believed there were any human injuries at Esto.

The Tornado activity continues into the early morning hours on Thursday.

To assist the traveling public during the evacuation for Hurricane Ivan in
the panhandle, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has entered into contracts for Road Ranger service on I-10 plus major north south routes in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Bay counties. Rangers and DOT personnel will patrol the roads to assist broken down motorists and those that run out of gas.

Hurricane Ivan is causing postponements and cancellations through this area. Here’s a list of some events, schools, and businesses affected:

Bay County, Jackson County, Washington county and Gulf County public schools will be closed through this Friday and are scheduled to re-open next Monday. Holmes, Walton and Okaloosa County Public Schools will be closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Holy Nativity Schools in Panama City will be closed Tuesday through Friday of this week. Calhoun County Schools will close Wednesday and Thursday.

Public schools in Franklin County will be closed Wednesday and Thursday.

The St. Andrew Bay Center in Lynn Haven is closed.

Gulf Coast Community College will be closed through Thursday.

FSU Panama City is now closed until further notice. .

The Mosley High School class of 1994 reunion scheduled for this Saturday is postponed.

The West Florida Electric cooperative in Graceville is prepared to repair
any outages in their service area. The utility has activated its automated
Outage Phone System to process customer information. Because the system uses a customer’s telephone number to located reported power outages, customers calling to report an outage from a phone number other than the one listed in their coop service records should enter the correct number when prompted by the automated system. This includes cell phones. West Florida customers can report electric service problems or downed power lines by calling 1-850-263-3231 or toll free at 1-800-342-7400.

Gulf Power also uses the same type of automatic reporting system. The number for Gulf Power Customers to call to report electricity outages is 1-800-GU POWER.

It will be tomorrow morning before utility company crews can get out and start making repairs. The must wait until the winds subside. Gulf Power earlier had said it could be up to 3 weeks to finish making repairs and get all the power back on.

Airports:

The Panama City-Bay County International Airport terminal is closed as is
the Fort Walton Beach/Valpraiso airport at Eglin Air Force Base.

Area Bridges:

All bridges in Bay County remain open until sustained winds reach 55 MPH.

Bridges in Gulf County will be closed when sustained wind speeds are 50 MPH.

In Walton County the bridges will be closed at wind speeds of 40 MPH,
including the long US 331 bridge across Choctawhatchee Bay. That bridge is now closed.

The Florida Department of Transportation says The Pensacola Bay Bridge on Highway 98 between Gulf Breeze and Pensacola and the Lillian Highway Bridge on Highway 98 in Pensacola are closed.


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