As Hurricane Michael made its way toward the Panhandle, Walton County officials took cover at the county's emergency operations center in DeFuniak Springs.

In order to get the latest scoop, I joined.

As wind speeds rose and the storm came closer, the building — which resembles a concrete bunker — grew more tense. County staff, commissioners and other elected officials watched Michael's every move.

Some seemed hopeful, others were frustrated that residents didn't evacuate, but everyone was uncertain what the next 24 hours held.

By 8 a.m. last Wednesday, the shelter at Freport High School had already reached its full capacity of special-needs residents. The other shelter at Walton High School had plenty of room, but wasn't pet friendly.

Throughout the day, the number of evacuees at each shelter grew.

Louis Svehla, the Walton County public information manager, was my constant source for breaking news.

As more information came into the control room — I also heard it called the "war room" — Svehla would pass it on to me, and I would relay the message back to the newsroom.

At around 9:30, there was talk of closing the 331 Bridge.

Sustained winds were nearing 40 mph — the limit for a county bridge to be open — and residents that were still south of the the Choctawhatchee Bay were being advised to take shelter in place.

As the storm continued to grow, officials worried that it might veer west.

However, we knew for certain that our friends to the east were in trouble, and the Walton County EOC remained in constant contact with the National Weather Service.

Throughout the day, the internet was sporadic. Luckily, the EOC's generator got to work, and we were able to stay online.

Around noon, there was a meeting to introduce a 24-hour curfew for residents south of the bay. The curfew — requested by Sheriff Michael Adkinson and signed into effect by commission Chair Bill Chapman — was to protect residents and allow first responders to patrol if needed. It went into effect immediately, but fortunately, was lifted later that day.

As the Category 4 storm swept across the coast, everyone tuned in to the national news channels. Sara Comander, a Walton County commissioner, voiced her worries about the potential dangers of the following storm surges.

"We can get over anything," she said. "It's going to take all of us coming together. We can build back structures, but we can't built back lives."

That stuck with me.

Sometimes it seems like since we're Florida residents and are used to so much rain, hurricanes lose some intensity. They almost seem to become a norm, and less of the devastating natural disaster.

A distinct vibe from inside the bunker was a sense of frustration that some residents within the evacuation zones didn't heed the broadcasted warnings. To stay inside a danger zone not only puts your life in danger, but the lives of the first responders who may come to your rescue in the case of an emergency.

Fortunately for us, Walton was spared, but at the expense of somewhere else.

As the day went on and the winds died down, the mindset of our county officials changed. It went from being worried about our residents, to thankful the storm spared our county and then to a desire to help our neighbors.

Communications were said to be down within Panama City and Mexico Beach, and assessment crews were being put together to survey any damages before shifting all focuses toward the east.

By the end of the day, there were more than 70 people taking shelter at Walton High School and more than 760 at Freeport High School.

Corey Dobridnia, the public information officer for the Walton County Sheriff's Office, broadcasted a video saying how fortunate our county was and that now was the time to focus on areas that were hit much harder.

Dobridnia said that she lived in Panama City and evacuated to a coworkers house, not knowing if she'd have a place to come home to.

While we might live in different cities, we are all residents of the Emerald Coast and share a responsibility to help our neighbors.

Since then, almost everyone I've talked to since has said the same thing, "If it would have happened to us, they would do the same thing."