PANAMA CITY — Much of Bay County was destroyed Wednesday as Hurricane Michael plowed through the Florida Panhandle. The next morning, access to communications for those in the area was still scarce and the occasional Facebook update helped keep the community up to speed.
Early Thursday morning, the Bay County School District updated their Facebook to say there is still no cell service or electricity in most areas.
“We don’t yet have a comprehensive list of damages to our schools because not all roads are navigable,” said an unnamed spokesman for the school district. “This is way above my pay grade but since I’m the one with access to communication, and some people seem desperate for official word, it’s safe to say that we will not have school tomorrow.”
People are still using Bay County schools as shelters.
Later Thursday morning, the school district spokesman was able to get in touch with Superintendent William Husfelt for a brief time.
“He wants everyone to know that our hearts are with those who have suffered losses, many of them devastating, as a result of this hurricane and that everyone’s focus right now should be on taking care of their families,” the spokesperson wrote on Facebook. “We do not yet have a timeline for returning to school because we have not been able to complete a damage assessment on our buildings let alone make plans for repairs.”
Clint Whitfield, the principal at Breakfast Point Academy in Panama City, also took to Facebook to update the community, letting people know the roads are impassible and no one will be able to return to the area for the time being.
According to Bay County Emergency Services, most roads in the county are impassable due to debris or water covering the roadway.
“It is imperative that residents stay put if possible,” Emergency Services wrote on their Facebook. “Residents who evacuated should not return to Bay County until we advise that it is safe to do so. People on the roadway pose a significant impediment to our first responders' ability to clear the roads. Please, stay put and standby.”
Bay County first responders will begin safety checks as soon as possible as they work to clear the roads. The Red Cross and Salvation Army is accepting monetary donations since the county is unable to accept any donations.
All of Bay County is under a mandatory boil water notice. The Verizon network is currently down, impeding communications at the EOC.