FRANKLIN COUNTY — Approximately 50 emergency strike teams are waiting for an "all clear" to swarm Franklin County Thursday to begin damage assessments and perform welfare checks on the residents who stayed behind.
Pam Brownell, Franklin County Emergency Management director, said Duke Energy will be the first sent into Franklin County Thursday to deactivate live wires before sending in other emergency crews.
The Franklin County Emergency Operation Center received reports throughout the day Wednesday, Brownell said, of downed trees and power lines. One report stated a tree had fallen on top of a home in Carrabelle.
"We've got people out here riding around and walking," Brownell said Wednesday evening. "That's highly dangerous. People need to stay inside. If they don't listen there will be fatalities."
There were no official reports of injuries or fatalities as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office will enforce a dusk to dawn curfew until further notice, according to Sheriff A.J. Smith. Violators of the curfew will be arrested.
Flooding was also a major issue in Franklin County following the landfall of Hurricane Michael.
Residents reported water up to the doorsteps of businesses on Water Street and Commerce Street in downtown Apalachicola. Water was also rising on Market Street as Wednesday evening progressed.
U.S. Highway 98, Brownnell said, was washed out and missing pavement in some areas. The single road leading into Alligator Point was also destroyed.
Ho Hum RV Park was also underwater, according to reports.
Hurricane Michael made landfall at noon Central Standard Time Wednesday just west of Franklin County near Mexico Beach. Michael was just shy of Category 5 strength with 155 mph winds as it approached the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend.
One of first responders' major concerns in the aftermath of Michael will be the welfare of residents who ignored evacuation orders on St. George Island, Dog Island and Alligator Point.
Brownnell said one resident called the Emergency Management Center as Hurricane Michael was hitting the area requesting to evacuate the island. At that time, Brownnell said, it was too late.
"We had to say no," Brownnell said. "What if she would've gone across the bridge and the wind caught her? You made that choice. You knew when you stayed that we were not coming."
Allan Feifer was one of those residents who stayed behind in his home on Alligator Point Wednesday. Feifer said the road was washed away by early morning. He believed at least a few dozen residents remained.
"Too many people stayed behind," Feifer said. "I'm on Bald Point (Road) and I'm in a fortified house. Our major concern is our neighbors."
The Apalachicola Times spoke to Feifer before the storm came in midday Wednesday. Hours later, his phone was disconnected.
Johnny Nichols was taking down the plywood off of his windows when a large pine tree crashed into the bedroom of his home on U.S. 98 in Franklin County.
"I experienced something I've never experienced before," Nichols said. "It was intense. I was in my bedroom when the tree fell on it. I think it might have actually been a tornado, but I'm just guessing.
"I'm just going to take it day by day and see what we can do," he added.
Sandee Adkins was raking debris outside of her home on Commerce Street in Apalachicola following the hurricane and was trying to help others.
"We have a big mess," she said. "I'm just trying to clean this up. It's nothing that can't be fixed. Just like Gov. Rick Scott said, 'You can certainly clean up and take care of your house, but you certainly cannot restore life.' The city has a lot to do so I'm just trying to do my civic duty and take care of Commerce Street."
Brownnell said until emergency crews are able to assess damages Thursday, it's unclear how the area has fared compared to storms past. She said, however, it was the worst storm she's personally witnessed in her 13 years in emergency management for Franklin County.
"I think we're going to see a lot of trees down, power lines down and a lot of damage from trees going through roofs. It could possibly be that homes are flattened over there (on the coast). We just don't know yet."