CHIPLEY - As thousands of people living in Hurricane Michael's cone of impact, Elaine Baker too checked filling up her tank off of her to-do list Monday afternoon.
"I got about half a tank," she said, after several minutes of waiting to pull her vehicle next to the pump. "I figured I didn't know which we it's going to go, so I might as well fill up the whole tank."
It was certainly the wise thing to do, as forecasters projected four to eight inches of rain over Washington County and Category 3 hurricane winds from 111 to 129 miles per hour. If an evacuation was ordered, fuel would be essential.
County officials met in a special meeting Monday during a weather briefing by Washington County Emergency Management to declare a local state of emergency.
"Flash flooding is likely on Wednesday, a high chance of significant strong wind, downed trees and power lines," said the Emergency Management Office official Lynn Abel, noting widespread power outages and the threat of tornadoes is also something officials should keep in mind. "This is very serious."
The state of emergency went into effect 7 a.m. Tuesday.
As a result, schools closed at 1 p.m. Tuesday and remained closed Wednesday. Government offices and the Washington County Courthouse was also closed Wednesday. The Washington County Sheriff's Office remained opened.
Sandbags were made available to county residents from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at Vernon Fire Station, Sunny Hills Fire Station and Orange Hill Fire Station with a limit of 25 bags per household.
A general population and special needs shelter was opened 2 p.m. Tuesday for county residents. The general population shelter opened at Roulhac Middle School, 1535 Brickyard Road and the special needs shelter at WAVE School, housed at the former fifth grade wing at Roulhac Middle School, 934 Tiger Loop. Pets shelter is available.
Those seeking shelter should bring the following items: bedding, snacks and medications.
Gas lines snaked around filling stations throughout the area Monday into Tuesday. Some stores reported fuel shortages, at others, people waited for tanks to deposit fuel for pumping.
Elaine Baker, who has plans to spend time in Hawaii next month in ministry, hoped the storm wouldn't directly hit the area.
Cautiously, if the storm would head directly toward the area, she said she has plans to "go north," as was the case for Bay County residents in specific zones which were under an evacuation order.
Sign up for Washington County emergency notifications by visiting the county's website washingtonfl.com, scroll to the bottom of the page to access the registration link. For more information, call the Emergency Management Office.
Officials encourage residents to use alternative numbers for non-emergencies as an effort to not inundate the 911 line: EOC - 850-638-6203, Sheriff's Office - 850-638-6111, Washington County Board of County Commissioners - 850-638-6200, and Public Works - 850-638-6280.