WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WDTN) – Hurricane Michael devastated parts of Northwest Florida when it made a direct hit with winds around 150 miles per hour Wednesday afternoon.
In Walton County, where some mandatory evacuations were issued, Rodney Bogart works at Hidden Dunes, a resort that many Miami Valley residents frequent.
“We get many, many people from Cincinnati and Dayton and Miamisburg,” said Bogart. “We had probably seven or eight people that just left to go back toward Ohio because of the mandatory evacuation.”
About 12 homeowners and mandatory staff stayed behind, and were cut off from inland around noon when all bridges were closed, turning a normally bustling beachside desolate.
Where Bogart is located, they experienced winds around 50 miles per hour, tree branches falling, internet and some power going out.
Bogart is a former Florida National Guard member, and has been deployed to numerous hurricanes, but said likely the most devastating impact Michael will bring to that portion of the Gulf Coast is the blow it could have on the area’s driving economic force – tourism.
“I’ve gone through every hurricane in the southeast from 1983 to 2007, and for this part of Florida, this is a very, very bad one,” said Bogart. “We’ve been watching the live feeds out of Panama City where the roofs are getting torn off of buildings.”
It will not be until Wednesday evening at the earliest that they will know the extent of damage but Bogart, as well as many other Florida residents, are encouraged by the Gulf Coast’s resiliency to get the beaches back to the white sugary ones they are known for.
“Luckily it’s at the end of the season and they have the winter time to recoup, but the people will come back because they come to the beaches,” said Bogart. “They’re going to come to the beaches if they have to stay in a tent.”
All nearby emergency and first responders were on level one alert meaning all fire, police and EMS services were double-staffed to aid in any rescues.