NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Florida panhandle is one of the most popular vacation spots for Tennesseans, and as Hurricane Michael made it's way toward landfall, many had to make the decision of whether to stay on vacation, or evacuate.
“I’ve never been in anything like this,” Kris Degioia of Nashville traveled to Miramar Beach, not expecting the storm to get as bad as it did. “It’s basically a ghost town, everybody’s inside.”
Even on Tuesday, it was hard to believe that the weather would take such a turn.
“It was sunny, it was pretty, I put some great pictures on Facebook, I went live on Facebook actually debating whether or not we should evacuate and I was like, 'no, there’s people in the ocean, I mean, looks fine to me.' And to go from that to this, it’s a 180," Degioia described.
After hearing the forecast, she decided even though the storm didn't seem like it would be bad, she'd stock up and get prepared just in case.
“We stocked up on water and food, made sure everything was inside that was outside the house we’re renting. I’ve made sure everything’s been charged, even my backup chargers are charged. Just went through the checklist they had online.”
Degioia was on vacation with two 7-year-olds and a 3-week-old, and she decided to go to a friend's house nearby so they could be in a home that was boarded up. “Ride it out. It’s the only thing we can do.”
Further West in Pensacola Beach, Jarrod Herd arrived for vacation with friends and family on Tuesday.
“After we got here, got some stuff unpacked, we’re about to hit the beach, it was gorgeous, all of our phones went off for a hurricane warning," Herd said.
On Wednesday as the storm was reaching landfall, the wind was the biggest issue. “Some of the loose sand kind of feels like needles just pelting you.”
Herd said the community had been great leading up to the storm, warning people of the incoming storm and giving people every opportunity to evacuate.
“They gave everyone the opportunity to leave because they did shut down the bridge. They notified us that once it got to 35 miles per hour and above for the wind, then they have to shut down the bridge for safety reasons.”
Herd decided to stay in Pensacola Beach, where he said only one restaurant remained open, but he said he felt safe being far enough away from the core of the storm.
“Board games and movies is the best thing we can do right now.”
Many people on the islands of the Florida panhandle will have to wait for the bridges to be reopened before they can leave, and once that happens, it's possible that many roads will still be hard to pass due to rising waters and debris on roadways.