Hurricane Michael: TV viewer helps Xenia man connect with parents in Florida

UPDATE @ 6:55 p.m.: The Xenia firefighter has made contact with his parents and his mother has told him they are safe and OK.

A News Center 7 viewer who saw our TV report was able to contact A.J. Smith’s mother via Facebook Messenger to let her know her son was looking for them.

Smith’s parents are safe and at their home. Smith’s mother was able to get enough cell phone service to call him and report that they are safe and OK.

Smith will continue his trip to Florida to help his parents with cleaning up.

INITIAL REPORT

A Xenia firefighter who hasn’t heard from his parents since Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday now is driving to the ravaged coastline hoping to find them safe.

A.J. Smith said the last time he and his wife heard from his mother and father was in a text message as the Category 4 storm hit near Mexico Beach, where they lived.

“Things were getting really bad.  They were hiding in the closet and to pray,” Smith said the text message read.

His parents, Jay and Melanie, live about a block from the Gulf of Mexico and he’s driving down to Florida today.

“I don’t know what to expect.  Watching the national news coverage, this is devastating,” Smith said. “Mom and Dad can rebuild.  All the material things we don’t care about.  I just want to make sure that they’re safe and healthy.”

Smith said he’s tried contacting local authorities, but with phone lines down, he’s been unable to have anyone check on his parents.

Smith said his dad survived the 1974 Xenia tornado and he’s hopeful the same will be said with Hurricane Michael.

“If he survived that he can survive Michael.  At least that’s what I’m hoping,” Smith said.

Smith said he had tried to convince his parents, who relocated to Florida for retirement, to evacuate, but they insisted on staying and riding out the storm.