Thousands of National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and medical teams are working their way into damaged communities to search for survivors of Hurricane Michael. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody reports that includes first responders from Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.

Santa Rosa Sheriff Bob Johnson and a dozen members of his office left Wednesday night. Sgt. Rich Aloy says they took with them a “Command Bus” -- a mobile communications center set up like a fixed-building dispatch operation.

NOAA/National Weather Service

Hurricane Michael – considered the strongest storm to hit the Florida Panhandle since record-keeping began in 1851 -- roared ashore at midday Wednesday near Mexico Beach.

Michael made landfall with 155 mph sustained winds -- just one mile an hour shy of a Category-5 -- and reported gusts topping 175. It also brings in a life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall throughout the region.

Tropical storm force winds from the system are sweeping across the Pensacola area, churning up 15-foot waves in the Gulf.

Joe Alonzo

Video captured in Destin by resident Joe Alonzo

Waves crashing on Santa Rosa Sound 

Joe Alonzo

Video captured in Destin by resident Joe Alonzo

National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Michael is approaching the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend as a Category-3 monster, with landfall expected (Wednesday). WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody reports last-minute preparations were being made Tuesday, including mandatory evacuations as far west as Pensacola.

The Escambia County Emergency Operations Center spent Tuesday at Level-2 – or partial activation – tracking Michael’s trek through the Gulf of Mexico.

National Weather Service

Hurricane Michael remains on track toward the north Florida gulf coast. It’s now a Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds of 110 mph and is moving north at 12 mph.

Our listening area from the Florida/Alabama border eastward is under a Hurricane Warning. A Storm Surge Warning is in effect from the Okaloosa/Walton County line eastward.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Hurricane Michael is approaching the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend as a Category-3 storm, with top winds of 110 miles an hour and landfall expected on Wednesday. Preparations are underway — including mandatory evacuations — as far west as Pensacola.

Residents in Escambia County’s Zone-A — Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key, and low-lying areas — were ordered out at noon Tuesday.

“If you’re under an evacuation order, listen to it – don’t wait,” said Gov. Rick Scott, speaking Monday at the Escambia Operations Center.

It's opening night for the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra

Oct 9, 2018
Juergen Frank

National Hurricane Center

As Hurricane Michael churns through the Gulf of Mexico, Gov. Rick Scott visited the Escambia County Emergency Operations Center on Monday, for a briefing on the storm. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody reports Pensacola is under a hurricane warning by the National Hurricane Center.

The Governor was in Pensacola late Monday afternoon, after briefings in Southport and New Port Richey on the 13th named storm of the 2018 season. His repeated message: do whatever it takes to stay safe.

Sandra Averhart, WUWF Public Media

Time is running out to register to vote in the November 6 General Election. The deadline in Florida is this Tuesday, October 9.

With just one day to go, the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Office set up a table during the lunch hour Monday in the University of West Florida Commons.

Calling out to those walking by is Benjamin Kinnard. The 19-year-old political science major interned at the elections office over the summer and helped to organize this event on behalf of his club, the College Democrats. 

National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Michael is expected to strengthen into a Category-2 or 3 storm by the time it hits the Florida Gulf Coast by midweek. A hurricane watch is in effect for the entire Panhandle region.

As of midday Monday, Michael was a Category-1 storm, packing sustained winds of 75 mph about 20 miles southwest of the western tip of Cuba. Movement was to the North at seven mph.  Michael is expected to strengthen further -- with winds topping 111 mph by Tuesday night -- before hitting Florida's Panhandle or Big Bend.

Florida Attorney General's Office

The State of Florida is launching a criminal investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic priests and others. Past victims are urged to contact authorities and share their stories.

Speaking Thursday, Attorney General Pam Bondi said more than 15 victims of past abuse already have come forward and contacted her office.

“As far as how widespread this is, frankly we have no idea right now; we love the Catholic Church, we love youth organizations and we love schools. But abuse is abuse,” said Bondi.

Every 20 years, Florida voters face more ballot initiatives than normal thanks to the Constitution Revision Commission. 

This non-elected panel of 37 people are appointed by members of the state leadership. 

They hear suggestions for amendments from the public across the state of Florida. At the end of these hearings and debate, they recommend a series of initiatives that automatically make it onto the November ballot. The most recent commission met in 2018.

Liam James Doyle/NPR

The Senate is taking a procedural vote on whether or not to move Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination forward. Watch the proceedings on the Senate floor live.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Four months after the launch of the ferry service between Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Gulf Islands National Seashore, the first numbers are in on ridership.

The ferries – “Turtle Runner” and “Pelican Perch” launched in June, amid much hoopla and after a year’s delay. Gulf Islands Superintendent Dan Brown hosted the kickoff and used a line from the movie “Field of Dreams” to issue an invitation and challenge to both visitors and residents.

Bob Barrett / WUWF News

As Major League Baseball begins its playoff season, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos are looking back at the season and are already making changes for 2019.

"I've never seen a team that were as bad as they were to start the year, and then, in a matter of a week, two weeks, kind of flip a switch and turn into one of the better teams I've seen" said Tommy Thrall, the team's lead broadcaster.

Daniel Uhlfelder

Oct. 8 Update: Red tide blooms are still present in Walton, Bay and Gulf counties. In Walton County, there is a medium concentration of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis.  According to the latest update from FWC, there is a very low presence of red tide in Okaloosa County. 

Red tide Blooms have popped up in Walton and Okaloosa Counties according to the latest update from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Work to safeguard longleaf pine forests in northwest Florida is getting a boost from a number of organizations, including Gulf Power Company.

The nearly one million dollar grant will support conservation efforts on more than 115,000 acres, including the recovery of at-risk wildlife. The lion’s share – $920,000 – is going for work on lands covered by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Plain Partnership.


In this week's Gulf Stories Moment, Nicole Grinnan, research associate and public archaeologist with the Florida Public Archaeology Network, discusses the ecological effects of the historical red snapper fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico and how it has affected the modern waterfront.