Florida survivors of Hurricane Michael who want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage after a day of dealing with the aftermath and no power may be out of luck.
Officials in Bay and Gulf counties have banned the sale and distribution of alcohol until the state of emergency is over — except for residents of Panama City, whose leaders voted Thursday to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., according to al.com.
Panama City is the seat of Bay County. Mexico Beach, destroyed when Hurricane Michael made landfall there on Oct. 10, is part of Bay County, as is the heavily damaged Tyndall Air Force Base.
No alcohol bans were issued on the Mississippi Coast after Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, causing near total devastation. After Katrina, curfews were in place but stores were allowed to sell beer and light wines and liquor stores were able to handle sales as power was restored to their areas.
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A spokesperson for Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison told the Northwest Florida Daily News that the sheriff “feels like people need to not focus on drinking. We need to not compound the situation with alcohol,” Corey Dobridnia said. The newspaper is based in Fort Walton Beach.
The Gulf County sheriff may lift the alcohol ban Saturday if power is restored, Dobridnia told the Pensacola-News Journal.
“He just wants to give people time to adjust and cope and the businesses time to get open and their feet back on the ground,” Dobridnia told the newspaper.
Bay County has a 6:30 am. to 6:30 p.m. curfew, but there’s a 9:30 p.m. curfew at Panama City Beach to allow people to get home after work, WMBB TV in Panama City reports. Port St. Joe, just east of Mexico Beach, is the seat of Gulf County.
A handmade flyer posted at a Laguna Beach grocery store told patrons of the alcohol ban and said, “Check back often. Contact local officials.” Laguna Beach is west of Panama City.
A Facebook post summed up the frustration many have regarding the alcohol ban, according to the Daily News.
“Banning all sales of alcohol only rubs salt in the wounds of those already affected financially by this disaster, especially all of those in the restaurant business,” the post of Jonathan Hampel said.
The storm’s death toll has risen to 35, the Associated Press reports. Power is still out in much of the Panhandle and thousands of buildings are destroyed or damaged.
More than 1,200 people are in public shelters, al.com says, and relief efforts include air drops of food and water to the hardest hit of areas, especially those cut off by broken roads and piles of debris. More than 2,400 search and rescue personnel are in the area, and a camp has been set up at Tallahassee Regional Airport for up to 1,000 first responders.
Numerous groups across the Mississippi Coast are going to the hurricane struck area or collecting supplies and donations.