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Predictions worsen for Sumter area

At a 12;30 p.m. Wednesday briefing with the National Weather Service (NSW) in Atlanta/Peachtree City, predictions on Hurricane Michael changed significantly since its Tuesday briefing. A hurricane warning had been issued for the Sumter County area earlier in the morning.

The winds are expected to reach 70 to 75 mph during the late night hours, approximately between 11 p.m. Wednesday and 1 a.m. Thursday. and that means trees falling and power outages. Emergency vehicles will not be dispatched out when winds reach 40 mph so if a tree falls on your house, help will not be forthcoming. Citizens are urged to report such emergencies to 911 but reminded not to expect response until probably Thursday morning. EMS does not dispatch when winds reach 35 mph.

Citizens are informed not to call 911 for power outages but to notify their power company. Widespread power outages are expected.

The shelter at First Baptist Church, Baptist in Americus is open and people who decide to go there should bring a pillow, blanket, and whatever else they might need.

Phoebe-Sumter’s hospice patients on oxygen are being housed in a medical building on the medical center’s main campus in Americus. Patients on oxygen brought in by EMS will be placed there as well. Others on oxygen should consider going to the First Baptist Church shelter instead of the hospital.

Rainfall had already begun to fall in the Americus area by noon Wednesday and Sumter County can expect between 3 and 5 inches overnight. With the winds and rain come a higher risk for tornadoes, “quick spin-up tornadoes,” as the NWS said. This are is also under a flash flood watch during this weather event.

All of Sumter County is under a mandatory curfew from 5 p.m. Wednesday until 9 a.m. Thursday, this includes everyone — citizens and businesses.

The NWS at Atlanta/Peachtree City said this is first time it had issued a hurricane warning in its recorded history. This is also the first time a Category 4 hurricane has made landfall in the Florida Panhandle since 1851.

Bottom line take-away: moderate risk of tornadoes from outer bands Wednesday afternoon and evening and high risk for impact of hurricane-force winds overnight and some localized flooding.

Nigel Poole, Sumter County EMA director, recapped that while the curfew is mandatory, there are no mandatory evacuation notices.
“There will be lots of trees on houses in the middle of the night and no response from emergency services,” he stressed.