Jul. 10--PANAMA CITY -- Heavy rainfall expected this week could cause flooding and water damage to homes because of lingering Hurricane Michael damage, emergency officials warned Tuesday.
With the area still recovering from the Category 5 hurricane, the incoming possible tropical development in the Gulf of Mexico could create more problems than usual for homeowners with damaged roofs and motorists on roads prone to flooding. And while Bay County officials don't expect damage or issues anywhere near what happened after the hurricane, they advised residents to be cautious while driving, review their storm preparation plans and stock up on supplies.
"We have been following this very closely, given the fact that we're still in recovery," said Mark Bowen, Bay County's chief of emergency services. "We don't anticipate damaging winds, but we do expect a great deal of rain."
According to the National Weather Service, a tropical depression is likely to form by late Wednesday or Thursday while the system moves westward across the northern Gulf. The disturbance has the potential to produce heavy rainfall in the Panhandle during the next several days, NWS officials reported.
"We're not expecting anything remotely close to the hurricane, but we do have a lot of people working under a great deal of stress," Bowen said, referring to residents still recovering from Michael, which hit Oct. 10. "We don't anticipate evacuations or opening shelters."
Bowen said flooding could be an issue in spots around the county, particularly because of the thousands of trees lost in the hurricane. Without trees to soak it up, water will have fewer places to go and likely flood more into certain areas and roads, Bowen said.
"The greatest hazards will be on the roadways," Bowen said. "And all the areas in the county that have flooded in the past -- those areas likely will see more flooding."
Bowen warned motorists to turn around instead of trying to drive through water on flooded roads.
"It takes just a little bit of water to move a vehicle," he said.
In addition to motorists, homeowners with damaged roofs are more susceptible to the heavy rain because of the hurricane, Bowen said.
Blue-tarped homes still dot the landscape across the county nine months after the hurricane hit.
"And UV rays from the sun have worked their magic and so many people probably need new tarps," Bowen said.
Old, tattered tarps should be replaced to prevent further home water damage. Residents should also take this weather event as an opportunity to prepare for more threatening storms in the future, Bowen said.
"We're already in hurricane season, but folks need to have water in their house or car and non-perishable food items and medications squared away," Bowen said. "And people should make sure they have a full tank of gas in their car."
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