Welcome to the Mid Bay News Niceville Hurricane Information Dashboard! Because we live on the Gulf Coast, freaking out a little about hurricanes at the end of summer is just something we do.
But, let’s take that nervous energy and channel it – here are the resources you need in order to make smart decisions for you and your family as a storm gets closer to our shores. One caveat though – you definitely shouldn’t try to get married here during this time of year – here’s why.
Mid Bay News doesn’t have a meteorologist on staff, so we will not pretend to be The Weather Authority™ or whatever. But, we do have plenty of good resources we want you to know about that will be helpful if you live in Niceville, Valpraiso, Bluewater Bay or on Eglin Air Force Base.
Here are our favorite resources for precise information about Gulf Coast Hurricanes that are vetted for accuracy.
If you want to see the latest models with a professional’s context, we recommend two different sites – the National Hurricane Center page from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It looks like it was created in the 1990s, but it has great, if high-level, information for you to draw on to make decisions about evacuating or stocking up on supplies. This is the information most, if not all, meteorologists draw on to make their forecasts and supply you with information anyway. So, if you want to take the time to learn how to interpret the data, this is the page for you.
If you are like us and just want the information at a basic level that will help you make a decision right now – we recommend Red Zone Weather by Spinks Megginson. Spinks has been a local meteorologist in our area for a long time now and knows all of the ins and outs of weather in the Northwest Florida/Southern Alabama region. Based in Brewton – he probably won’t lose access to internet or connectivity as easily as we would in a storm, so you’ll more than likely be able to get information from him as long as you still have access to the internet. Plus, Spinks is a pretty awesome guy.
After the storm, there are bound to be plenty of issues around the Niceville, Eglin AFB and Valparaiso areas. We haven’t had a major storm hit the Okaloosa County area (knock on wood) since the mid-2000s, so we have not been tested in the last decade or so in disaster response. We’ve had plenty of close calls, though, so our emergency and hurricane response has had plenty of practice.
The best places for information about specific disaster response (besides midbaynews.com 😅) are:
Florida Department of Emergency Management – The FDEM has an evacuation GIS map that you will find most useful before a storm. It shows you everything from when you need to evacuate, what route you should take if you do need to evacuate, to where you can expect storm surge. It’s an incredibly useful tool before a hurricane strikes. Make your plan for hurricane season with this tool.
In order to see the different layers you may need to actually go to the Division of Emergency Management’s site.
You can do that here:
Okaloosa County’s Website – Okaloosa County’s Emergency Management Team will often be the first group to respond on the ground in our area before, during and after a storm. They start work way before FEMA or the Florida Department of Emergency Management and wrap up way after. These are seriously some of the most dedicated people on the planet – and they do it on almost no sleep for weeks on end. They are the ones setting up the food and supply lines after a storm and the people ensuring that the ambulances and sheriff’s deputies know where to go. They spend their time coordinating responses and ensuring safety.
You should also check out the Okaloosa County Hurricane Guide. It’s an amazing resource that will help you prepare for a storm comprehensively.
Niceville’s Website – The City of Niceville does not have an Emergency Management team like Okaloosa County does, but they do have plenty of manpower on the ground, which gets looped into any sort of disaster response. Niceville’s website is a good place to start for anyone in the city limits who wants more information about hyper-local situations (road closures, flooding, etc.).
FPL’s outage Map – As you might imagine, Florida Power and Light (FPL) plays a huge role in disaster response. The main thing you’ll probably want to know is; “When will the power turn back on in Niceville after a hurricane?” This is the map that will be able to tell you the answer most accurately.
Okaloosa County School District Website – The next question you might have after the storm passes is “when will schools open back up in Niceville?” After a couple of days in a house without power and two kids under the age of five – I know I’ll be asking that. The Okaloosa Schools website will have the best answer for you on that front.
Before a storm, schools in Okaloosa tend to close if a tropical storm watch is issued for the county. That is how it has been in the past, but it is subject to the superintendent’s discretion. Their website, as you might guess, will have the most up-to-date information about what the district plans to do.
Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office – Seriously, the Sheriff’s Office may be the best single resource for Okaloosa County residents during the passage of a storm. The Sheriff’s deputies are the last ones to leave the roads and batten down the hatches and the first to emerge after a storm.
In the state of Florida, law enforcement cannot legally pull you out of your home and tell you to evacuate. Which is ridiculous, because you’re putting their lives on the line by staying through an evacuation order.
As a former government public affairs person who has had to deal with people who don’t want to evacuate because they are on vacation – all I wanted was to scream at and shake people like this. Now that I’m not bound by the government’s version of common decency anymore, I will call you every name in the book if you choose not to comply with those orders.
Literally, you are stupid if you don’t do what they tell you in this situation. I do not care if you are on vacation, or have “made it through a category X storm” before. If you don’t evacuate – you’re setting yourself up to win a Darwin Award.
*whew* that felt really good.
Long story short – please evacuate when the Emergency Management Division at Okaloosa County and the Sheriff’s Office tells you to. It’s your life. But, you’re risking their lives, too, when you decide to make that decision.
Do you have any other resources we need to share with people? Shoot us a note with what we need to add to the page!