Warren residents wait out Hurricane Michael in Alabama

AP The National Hurricane Center said Michael’s eye had crossed from the Florida Panhandle into southwestern Georgia as a dangerous Category 3 storm, the strongest to hit that part of the state in recorded history. Port St. Joe Lodge No. 111, at right, lays in ruins on Reid Avenue on Wednesday, in Port St. Joe, Fla.

MOBILE, Ala. — When Warren resident Robert Jennings traveled to Navarre, Florida, Oct. 3 to visit his daughter, Jennifer, and his three grandchildren, he expected to spend much of the time watching the grandkids’ soccer games and helping around the house.

“It was on Sunday that my daughter mentioned there was a hurricane near Cuba that was headed to Florida,” Jennings said.

The elder Jennings feigned indifference, saying there really was not anything to worry about.

At the time, Hurricane Michael had just been upgraded to a Category 1 storm from a tropical depression. However, weather forecasters already were saying they expected the storm to strengthen as it traveled over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Already having experienced a Category 1 hurricane, Jennings admits he was not prepared to experience anything like that ever again.

By Monday morning, Jennings decided to fill the car with gasoline.

“There was a long line on U.S. 98 of people buying gasoline and supplies preparing for the hurricane,” Jennings said. “People were buying water and anything else they felt they needed. They were cleaning out the shelves. People were panicking.”

Jennings and his son-in-law helped place hurricane shutters on one of their neighbor’s homes.

“We packed yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon and decided to move northwest, away from the storm,” he said. “We wanted to get as far out of the hurricane’s path as possible.”

Jennings said Navarre wasn’t under an evacuation order, but they did not want to take a chance of the hurricane changing course. They traveled to Mobile, Alabama, to wait out the storm.

Checking the television weather, they learned the storm did not hit Navarre as bad as had been anticipated.

“We were expecting 50 mph winds and waves,” he said. “It hit other communities much harder.”

Jennings on Wednesday said he was expecting to travel back to his daughter’s home in Navarre that night.

“Schools are expected to be open tomorrow,” he said.

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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