Natural Disasters

Hurricane Michael radar image.

Hurricane Michael approaches the Florida Panhandle on Oct. 9. National Weather Service.

Federal and state courts are announcing closings before Hurricane Michael hits the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday.

If Hurricane Michael hits landfall with predicted 125 mile-an-hour winds, the storm would rival Panhandle hurricanes of 1975 and 1882 for intensity, USA Today reports. The Hurricane was upgraded to Category 3 on Tuesday, according to the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Federal courts in Panama City, Pensacola and Tallahassee were closing on Tuesday, according to this announcement. Meanwhile Florida state courts in 28 counties had announced closings as of 4 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday. The Florida Supreme Court and the state’s First District Court of Appeal were also closing.

Georgia’s Administrative Office of the Courts is posting on Twitter any court closing orders it receives. As of Tuesday afternoon, courts in three counties had reported closures. The State Bar of Georgia listed additional closures in two other counties.

Florida State University is closing its campuses in Tallahassee and Panama City through Friday. The law school is located in Tallahassee.

The Florida Bar’s Tallahassee offices also were closed through Thursday. According to the bar’s website, the Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar, working with the ABA Young Lawyers Division, was seeking volunteers to answer calls on a telephone hotline connecting hurricane victims with lawyers. Consumers will also be able to get help through Florida Free Legal Answers, an online legal clinic.

The ABA has approved a temporary increase in the income cap for people using Free Legal Answers so they can access the site and post questions relating to Hurricane Michael. Free Legal Answers is a collaboration between the Florida Bar and the ABA.

Disaster Response Resources

Volunteering Opportunities

North Carolina attorneys can find info on volunteering on the North Carolina Bar‘s Hurricane Florence page.

South Carolina attorneys can volunteer for the South Carolina Bar‘s disaster relief legal service hotline by filling out this form.

Not licensed in those states but looking to donate your time or money? Check out ambar.org/DisasterRelief.

ABA Journal Coverage

Disaster Helplines

The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is a national hotline dedicated to providing year-round disaster crisis counseling. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 via telephone (1-800-985-5990) and SMS (text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746) to residents in the U.S. and its territories who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural or man-made disasters.

For low-income individuals with disaster-related legal needs, the following phone numbers are available:
North Carolina residents: 1-833-242-3549
South Carolina residents: 1-877-797-2227 ext. 120
Virginia residents: 1-804-775-0808 in the Richmond area, or 1-800-552-7977.