PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – It was all hands on deck at WMBB in Panama City as Michael approached the Panhandle. After numerous near-misses from past storms, it was clear that Michael was going to be different.
WMBB Meteorologist Sam Lucey describes the feeling in the weather center as the storm continues to gain strength.
“Among us meteorologists, it was a little somber because we are like ‘Hey, this is coming for us, and we know there’s nothing that’s going to slow it down.'”
Tom Lewis, news director at WMBB, felt the urgency of the situation.
“So we’re thinking…We lived through Opal. It was a 3, borderline 4. We can handle this. This wasn’t Opal. This was a whole new animal that we had never seen before.”
With just a few hours left before landfall, the decision was made to pull all reporters from the field. The staff at WMBB had to hunker down as Michael roared ashore. The sound of debris from surrounding building battering the news station grew louder and louder
“We had our security cameras at the back door on and we could see debris starting to fly up against the building. So that’s when we knew things were getting serious,” said Lewis.
Fear grew in the newsroom as conditions deteriorated outside. Tom Lewis tried to calm those fears.
WMBB was knocked off the air waves. It would take nearly a week for them to become operational. All the staff could do was assess damage. Sam Lucey was shocked as she stepped outside on to Harrison Avenue.
“I didn’t have any words. I think my jaw dropped and I just looked in a 360 direction, and…there’s nothing left.”
The station has faced numerous challenges since Michael, but the sound of hammering and saws buzzing gives Lewis hope that WMBB will soon get back to a new normal.