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Hurricane Hermine hits area

Rick Patrick

Greene Publishing, Inc.

It was the first hurricane to hit Florida in 11 years.  Even though, as hurricanes go, Hermine was mild, (a Category 1 storm, meaning sustained winds of 74-95 miles per hour) it still left widespread destruction from the Gulf Coast into South Georgia.  Thousands were without power as crews from throughout the southeast worked diligently to restore power.  Statewide, an estimated 325,000 residents were without power, while an additional 107,000 Georgia residents lost power.  According to information provided by the Tri-County Electric Cooperative, over 13,000 Tri- County customers had lost power over their service area, which includes Madison, Taylor, and Jefferson Counties.  As of Monday, Sept. 5, there were still 1,910 customers still without power, however that number had dropped below 300 by Tuesday morning, Sept. 6.  Duke Energy has made similar progress toward restoring power to their customers. Both Duke Energy and Tri-County Electric brought in crews consisting of hundreds of workers from as far away as Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama to help with the restoration work.  Locally, one Duke Energy customer in Madison County was still without power as of Tuesday morning, Sept. 6.

According to Alan Whigham, Director of Madison County Emergency Management, the primary source of damage in Madison County was due to falling trees and tree branches.  The two primary areas of concern were debris and power outages.  Locally, structural damage was limited, although the Madison Creative Arts School had extensive damage to the roof of the school.  The Smith Mansion, located on Base St., also sustained damage after the winds split a large oak in the mansion's yard. According to Weather.com Hurricane Central reports, Madison County had sustained winds of 80-75 miles per hour.  In addition, Hermine dumped approximately six to eight inches of rain on the area.

In preparation for the storm, the Madison County Emergency Management office activated an Emergency Operations Center (EOC).  The EOC kept all county and city agencies briefed on the progress of the storm as well as other important information.  An emergency shelter was opened at Madison County Central School (MCCS) for county residents in need of an emergency shelter.  An area of this shelter was designated for citizens with special medical needs.  This special needs area was manned by the Madison County Department of Health.  The remainder of the shelter was manned by the American Red Cross.  The shelter was kept opened until the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 2, when it was determined that it was safe for people to return to their homes.  A total of 65 county residents used the emergency shelter.  On Saturday, Sept. 3, a comfort shelter was opened at MCCS in order to allow residents who were still without power to get into the air conditioning and take a shower.  This comfort shelter remained opened until around noon on Sunday, Sept. 4.

Throughout the weekend, the EOC maintained a Level One activation.  This Level One activation is the highest level of activation, meaning that a full staff was on hand to coordinate emergency support among all the various county offices, from law enforcement to sanitation.  This helped to streamline responses to various events during the emergency.  The local Office of Emergency Management works as a liaison between the local office and the larger Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“Overall [our] plans worked well and [we] were prepared. Although there is always room for improvement.  Over the next few days we will look at those areas where we can improve,” said Whigham.

Elsewhere in the area, Hermine caused widespread damage in neighboring Taylor County. Especially along the coastline where flooding waters and the storm surge washed boats onto roadways.

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Photo Courtesy Of Leigh Barfield

On Park Loop, located near Lake Frances in the Madison city limits, a massive tree fell during the Category 1 winds of Hurricane Hermine as the storm blew over Madison County. The fallen tree caused immense damage to the property owner's shed.

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Photo Courtesy Of R&R Event Pros

Linemen crews from as far away as Virginia came to Madison County to assist in repairing fallen lines, clearing trees and working relentlessly to restore power to the county. On Friday, Sept. 2 and the weekend that followed, fleets of trucks could be found parked in the Food Giant and Winn-Dixie parking lots as crews assessed the work that needed to be done.

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Greene Publishing, Inc. Photo By Emerald G. Parsons, September 2, 2016

Many Madison County residents were without power for days after Hurricane Hermine blew through on Thursday night and Friday morning. Power lines all across the county were downed by heavy winds, rain and fallen trees.

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Greene Publishing, Inc. Photo By Emerald G. Parsons, September 2, 2016

The stately oak tree in front of the historic Smith Mansion, in Madison, was broken and blown down by Hurricane Hermine. Fortunately, the mansion only suffered minor damage.

To see more of the damage Hurricane Hermine caused throughout Madison County, see pages 7-9.

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