Ivan has vacation spots on his list - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Ivan has vacation spots on his list

September 14, 2004

Panama City Beach-- The city with the world's most beautiful beaches was boarded up getting ready for whatever he brings their way.

Hurricane Ivan is brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. I'm on Panama City Beach where the Category 4 monster is expected to make landfall within the next 24 hours.

Resident Ed Peters is shutting out another fierce one. "Ivan, Ivan the Terrible," he calls the storm.

Ivan's terrible winds are heading toward Florida's Panhandle, he's brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. Panama City could be a target. A tiny piece of land called Shell Island separates Ed Peters from Ivan. "I'm concerned a little I guess," says Peters.

But not everyone is concerned, "It is a beautiful day, other than the whole hurricane thing, so we decided to just go to the beach," says beachgoer Audra Owensby.

While Audra Owensby and her friends are catching waves and rays, Bay County Emergency operators are catching frantic phone calls. "If you live in a mobile home or low lying area, that's also evacuation," says Emergency Coordinator Catherine McNaught.

Panama City is usually bustling with tourists, but is now calm and quiet. [: 7:14 "This is a big tourist attraction season, normally everybody is down here," Owensby said.

Not today. There's a mandatory evacuation for costal Bay County, Florida. "Worries it will do something like Charley did," said McNaught. "It took a turn overnight when people were sleeping."

Ivan never sleeps. Meanwhile these Panama City homeowners, like Ed and his friends, are weighing the options. Peters said, "We'll probably stay, depending on if it hits us directly. Right now, the forecast is more toward the Mobile Bay area than us."

If Panama City Beach doesn't get the actual hurricane, they still may get tropical storm winds and rain. Hurricane Ivan's winds reach out 100 miles from the center and tropical storm conditions span out 260 miles from the hurricane. Either way, it's going to be intense.

Right now, the bridges leading to the Panama City Beach are open, but Emergency coordinators say the higher bridges will probably close tomorrow afternoon. They will shut down when winds get above 55 miles per hour. That's another reason why they are urging people to leave, so they won't get stranded.

Panama City was hit by Hurricane Opal almost 10 years ago, devastating the town and the beach. It was a Category 3 Hurricane, Ivan is, right now, a Category 4 .

posted at 5:10PM by dave.miller@walb.com