Hurricane Hermine Hits Home

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ECB Publishing, Inc. Photo By Lazaro Aleman, September 2, 2016
Numerous trees were downed across roads and power lines across Jefferson County. Much of the county’s power had been restored by late Sunday night. See more pictures of Hermines damage at http://www.ecbpublishing.com/hurricane-hermine-pictures-around-jefferson-county/.

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.

Once again Jefferson County last week was spared a major natural disaster. Despite Hurricane Hermine making landfall in the Big Bend area early Friday morning with gusts of up to 80 mph, Jefferson County largely escaped harm. “I feel the county was again blessed,” Jefferson County Emergency Management Director Carol Ellerbe said on Friday morning, Sept. 2, hours after the hurricane had made landfall near the coastal community of St. Marks and swept inland. Ellerbe said that other than for numerous fallen trees and downed power  lines, the damage was minimal, given the storm’s size, intensity and expected impact. Governor Rick Scott Governor Rick Scott, in fact, the day before had called the storm a potential disaster and declared a state of emergency for 51 of Florida’s 67 counties. “We have power outages and trees down, but I don’t see the kind of damage that would have usually occurred with this type of storm,” Ellerbe said. She noted that the Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane just east of St. Marks at about 1:30 p.m. Friday, thereafter moving inland. Ellerbe said she had heard reports of a couple of downed trees hitting houses. But as of Friday, she had had no reports of injuries, extensive flooding, or major property damage, she said. Hermine, meanwhile, continued moving inland across Georgia on Friday, initially weakening and then strengthening again as it neared the Atlantic, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm continued to be associated with heavy rains, tropical storm-force winds and isolated tornadoes. By Monday, Hermine was off the coast of New England, having ruining the Labor Day holiday for many folks along the Eastern seaboard. In Jefferson County on Friday morning, residents began emerging from their shelters, or wherever they had hunkered down during the storm, to assess the damage, most of which consisted of fallen trees, trees debris and downed power lines. Many started almost immediately cleaning up, picking up tree limbs and other debris and trying to restore normalcy. Tree-cutting services such as Doug Stiff’s were soon busy around town. And in the county, the buzz of chainsaws and rattle of generator motors were constant sounds. One of the storm’s biggest impacts, in fact, was the loss of power in large parts of the region and the state. On Friday morning, most of Monticello and large parts of the county were without electricity, with the outage situations persisting for many until midnight Sunday. Parts of Monticello, however, had power restored by as early as 1 p.m. Friday, and for several of the businesses so blessed, business proved thriving, especially for those serving food and hot coffee, according to reports. Duke Energy-Florida reports it staged more than 1,200 workers from North and South Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky and other parts of Florida at three strategic locations in the area to ensure a rapid response to storm-affected service areas. In addition to the original Live Oak location in Suwannee County, according to Duke Energy-Florida spokesperson Ana Gibbs, the company added sites in Apalachicola and Monticello. “This will allow the resources to be staged near the most likely impacted areas within our service territories to respond to any outages, downed lines and other emergencies that may occur,” Gibbs said prior to the storm’s landfall. Following the storm, Duke Energy crews worked around the clock to restore power. According to the company, the storm affected more than 220,000 of its customers in 31 counties, but by midnight Sunday, all affected customers had had their power restored. Not so in Tallahassee, where more than 100,000 were left without power and where many were still without power on Monday. Tallahassee operates its own utilities. Media reports all emphasize that Hermine was the last hurricane to strike Florida since Wilma in October 2005, and the first to make landfall in the US since Arthur in 2014. Wilma, a Category 5 hurricane, smashed into Cape Romano, FL, with 120 mph winds in October. It was one of several storms — including Dennis, Rita and Katrina — that made the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season one of the most intense and destructive in history. The fact that Florida has been spared hurricanes since 2005, however, doesn’t mean that it has been completely spared in the last 11 years. Tropical storms, in fact, have repeatedly assailed the state, and some of them have proven deadlier and more destructive than some hurricanes. Meteorologists define tropical storms as organized cyclonic circulations that consistently reach maximum sustained winds gusts of between 39 and 73 mph. Tropical storms are upgraded into Category 1 hurricanes when maximum sustained winds increase to between 74 and 95 mph. A partial list of tropical storms that have hit Florida since 2005 includes:

* Tropical Storm Alberto, which hit the Big Bend area in June 2006, before moving inland across Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

* Tropical Storm Barry, the second named storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. It made landfall near Tampa Bay as a tropical depression and moved inland.

* Tropical Storm Fay, a strong and unusual tropical storm that moved slowly and erratically across Florida in 2008, causing widespread flooding and damage across the state. Fay made landfall near Naples, moved northeast through the peninsula, and emerged into the Atlantic Ocean near Melbourne. It then made landfall again near New Smyrna Beach, moved west across the Panhandle after crossing Gainesville, and hit Panama City. As it zigzagged from water to land, Fay became the first recorded storm in history to make landfall four times in Florida, with 36 deaths attributed to it. The storm was also credited with spawning the most prolific tornado outbreaks on record, with 81 tornadoes touching down across five states. Damage from Fay was estimated at $560 million.

* Tropical Storm Claudette, the third named storm of the 2009 season. It formed and quickly intensified offshore of Tallahassee, making landfall on Santa Rosa Island in the Panhandle in August.

* Tropical Storm Bonnie is described as bringing squally weather to the Gulf Coast, before making landfall on the southeastern coast of Florida in July 2010.

* Tropical Storm Debby caused extensive flooding in North and Central Florida during late June 2012. It made landfall near Steinhatchee.

* Tropical Storm Beryl, in late May 2012, is said to be the strongest off-season Atlantic tropical cyclone on record to make landfall in the United States. It made landfall near Jacksonville Beach. Upon making landfall, the storm produced strong winds that left 38,000 people without power

* Tropical Storm Colin, earlier this year, was the earliest third named storm in the Atlantic basin on record. Colin made landfall in rural Taylor County in June. The system rapidly crossed northern Florida and emerged into the Atlantic Ocean several hours later.