New area code could soon be added to ‘8-5-0’ for Panhandle communities

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. — What do the numbers ‘8-5-0’ mean to you?

For many Panhandle residents, they have become much more than an area code.

“I think of our community,” said one resident, James Scheffler.

“It’s home,” said Mack Bailey, another resident. “It means a beautiful place.”

The numbers have become a symbol of strength and community.

“8-5-0 means surviving Hurricane Michael,” said Latavius Johnson, another resident. “Everybody coming together, staying strong and pulling together.”

“Last year, maybe you would have gotten a different response,” said Scheffler. “I don’t know, it seems cemented in our hearts right now. I think it’s a part of our community.”

But what if that area code was changed to something else?

“I would be offended,” said another resident, who did not wish to release her name. “They already took ‘9-0-4’ away from us, why take ‘8-5-0’ when that’s what we stand for?”

A new area code could soon be a possibility.

State officials are concerned that the ‘8-5-0’ area code will exhaust by 2022, meaning that there’s not a lot of those phone numbers left to assign. They’re holding a workshop in September to discuss a new area code for Panhandle communities.

Residents like Bailey say a new number wouldn’t change the community.

“The people would stay the same,” he said. “The area would still be the same.”

The organization in charge of area-code planning has requested an overlay, meaning that a new code would simply be added to the area; it wouldn’t replace ‘8-5-0.’

So you wouldn’t have to change your phone number. If someone were to get a new number after the change, however, it would not have an ‘8-5-0’ in front of it.

What the new area code will be, remains a mystery for now.

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