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KNOW YOUR ZONE: Hurricanes can threaten Wakulla County's coast; what to do when evacuation orders are given

In Panacea, it only takes about four feet of storm surge to start flooding the neighborhood.
Posted at 6:00 PM, May 31, 2024
  • The Wakulla County coast is vulnerable to storm surge during hurricanes.
  • County leaders have an evacuation plan in place should a storm threaten the area.
  • Watch the video above to see what you need to do if evacuation orders are given.


Neighbors who live along the coast in Wakulla County know how quickly the water can come up here.

I’m neighborhood reporter Kenzie Krueger. I’m finding out what people living in Panacea and Wakulla County need to know if a storm heads our way.

“It’s painful, but it is the nature and of the beast and it’s the beast we’re dealing with when we’re dealing with hurricanes.” Cypress Rudloe owns Gulf Specimen Marine Labin the Panacea neighborhood. “These buildings weren’t designed for what the storms of the future are going to be and we know that so we’ve been working for the past three years.”


Panacea prepares for hurricane season

The lab was built in the 1960s. Each hurricane season Rudloe worries about its ability to withstand these storms. He’s been preparing for the next storm. “We're going to have bigger and stronger storms so that means we need to have bigger and stronger buildings.”

Many neighbors in Wakulla County live on the coast where storm surge can threaten lives. Just look at how high the water got at Shell Point during Hurricane Michael in 2018.


Coastal communities vulnerable to storm surge

That threat is why it’s important to know your evacuation zones.

Jennifer Nagy is the Director of Emergency Management in Wakulla County. “You don’t want to wait until the last minute and we’ve had that happen especially if you need any type of assistance with transportation.”

She says early on after the call the evacuation order they’re able to help people leave. “But unfortunately, sometimes people wait until all of that is gone and then they get scared want to leave but it’s often too late whether it’s due to traffic being backed up, roads already closing or just the lack of transportation assistance that’s available at that time.”

Wakulla County has a portal where people can type in their address and find their evacuation zones. The zones will be A, B or C.

Zone A is for areas closest to the coast. The county opens Crawfordville Elementary up as a shelter if the storm is below a category 3 hurricane.

“If it’s a category three or above we do not open shelters in Wakulla,” Nagy added. That’s when neighbors are told to go to other shelters in surrounding areas like Leon County.

For Nagy, helping people in the county stay safe is a big part of what she does.

“One of the most important things I can do is to educate the public on how they can be prepared and how they can respond during disasters.”

While she works to keep people safe, neighbors like Rudloe will be working to prepare no matter what the forecast says. “I’ve got to mentally prepare myself too because there’s always going to be a hurricane and they’re just going to be bigger.”

Here in Panacea, it only takes about 4 feet of storm surge to start flooding the neighborhood. If you’re told to evacuate, don’t wait until that becomes a problem.