Alabama Power is mobilizing internal resources, employees and contractors in preparation for Hurricane Michael, which is expected to strike along the Florida-Alabama border Wednesday.
Between 600 and 700 Alabama Power and contract crews are being deployed to the southeast area of the state to support Alabama Power teams already on the ground. The crews will be staged closer to where the storm is expected to cause damage.
The company also is communicating with sister companies and investor-owned utilities in the region via Alabama Power’s mutual assistance agreements. The agreements provide for utilities to quickly help each other if needed following a natural disaster or other significant disruption.
Tuesday afternoon, federal reconnaissance aircraft found Michael’s maximum winds have increased to Category 2 intensity near 100 mph. The infrared satellite appearance shows intense thunderstorm activity beginning to completely encircle a more-defined hurricane center, indicating an intensifying storm.
Hurricane Michael is about 380 miles south of Panama City, Florida, and about 405 miles south to south-southeast of Pensacola Bay, moving north-northwest at 12 mph. The latest reported pressures by aircraft have been 968-972 millibars.
Forecasters said there is no change to the track or intensity of Michael, with landfall anticipated in the Florida Panhandle around Wednesday afternoon. The only remaining question is how strong the hurricane may be at landfall. Michael is expected to become a strong Category 2 or a Category 3 storm prior to landfall. Estimates put the damage at up to $10 billion from this storm.
On Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency in anticipation of widespread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds and heavy rain associated with Michael. Flash flooding and tornadoes are possible as parts of the state are under tropical storm watches or warnings.
“On the state level we are prepared, now is the time for residents in south Alabama to review your emergency preparedness plans and also get prepared,” Ivey said. “Most importantly, heed all warnings and instructions from local authorities.”
Houston and Geneva counties are under a hurricane warning. Coffee, Dale and Henry counties are under a hurricane watch. Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Butler, Crenshaw, Pike, Barbour and Covington counties are under a tropical storm warning. Bullock, and Russell counties are under a flash flood watch. Localized flooding may prompt a few evacuations as flood waters may have the possibility to enter a few structures in vulnerable spots. Rainfall totals of 3-6 inches are possible across the flash flood watch area.
By declaring a statewide emergency, Ivey activated the Alabama Emergency Operations Plan, directing state agencies to exercise their statutory authority to assist communities and entities affected by the storm. The Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) is authorized to make assessments of damages following the storm.
“Hurricane Michael is forecast to become a major hurricane and it will produce widespread power outages and debris that will challenge our response and recovery in the southern and Wiregrass counties,” said AEMA Director Brian Hastings. “Alabamians should always be prepared, but everyone needs to make final preparations now to be ready for Hurricane Michael.”
The Alabama Emergency Management Agency began operating at a Level 2 activation this morning.
The Ozark Civic Center at 302 East College St. opened up as a Red Cross shelter this afternoon for those displaced by Hurricane Michael.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the price gouging laws are in effect to discourage those from trying to illegally profit from the bad weather.
“Alabamians should be cautious of those who would seek to prey upon them through crimes such as price gouging and home repair fraud,” Marshall said.
Although what constitutes an unconscionable price is not specifically set forth in state law, a price that is 25 percent or more above the average price charged in the same area within the past 30 days – unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost – is a prima facie case of unconscionable pricing. Marshall said. The penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 per violation, and those determined to have willfully and continuously violated this law may be prohibited from doing business in Alabama.
Consumers and officials can report concerns of alleged fraud or illegal price gouging to the Attorney General’s Consumer Interest Division by calling toll-free 1-800-392-5658 or visiting the Attorney General’s website to file a complaint.
School closings are being compiled at the Alabama State Department of Education.
Safety is a priority at Alabama Power and should be for people in the path of Michael. Here is some safety information for hurricanes and severe storms:
Preparing for a hurricane:
- Learn your community hurricane evacuation routes, in case an evacuation is necessary.
- Determine where your family will meet.
- Make sure you have a way to contact your family.
- Keep cellphones and electronic devices charged.
- Stay informed with a battery-operated weather radio.
- Stock an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, first-aid supplies, cash and copies of your critical information.
- Keep a three-day supply of water – a gallon per person per day – and three days’ supply of nonperishable food on hand.
- Trim shrubs and trees close to your home to minimalize damage to your home.
- Turn down the thermostat in your home. It can help keep your home cool for up to 48 hours when power is interrupted.
- Bring in outdoor items, such as furniture, decorations, garbage cans, etc.
During a hurricane:
- Seek shelter in a sturdy building, away from windows and doors.
- Monitor your weather radio for updates and reports.
After a hurricane:
- Stay off flooded roads.
- Stay away from downed lines and keep pets away.
- If you are an Alabama Power customer and experience an outage or see or a downed line, report the outage at www.alabamapower.com or call Alabama Power’s automated reporting system at 1-800-888-APCO (2726).
- Turn off appliances to avoid any potential safety hazards when power is restored.
- Stay clear of damaged and fallen trees where a downed line may be hidden.
- Stay away from areas where repair crews are working.