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Local News

Hurricane Hermine Moves Closer To Florida

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Hurricane Hermine made landfall in Florida’s Big Bend region Friday morning. She’s the first hurricane to hit the Sunshine State since Wilma in October, 2005. 

Gov. Rick Scott is urging Gulf Coast residents to take immediate precautions for Hermine, which became a Category-1 storm early Thursday afternoon. 

“Three days of water; three days of food,” said the Governor. “If you need medicine, make sure you have it. You have no idea if you’ll be able to get it after the storm hits. Have batteries; have a battery-powered radio.”

Scott has ordered state government offices in 51 counties, including those in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton Counties, to close. Six thousand Florida National Guard troops and equipment also stand ready if needed.  

The western Panhandle is not part of the watch and warning areas. Walton County had been in that area, but Emergency Management Director Jeff Goldberg says that changed on Thursday. 

“We had a conversation with the National Weather Service [and] got some information that we may not be impacted by any of the winds or rain from the storm,” said Goldberg. “They continue to confirm that. Maybe a little bit of rain, probably a little bit of storm surge, maybe 1-3 feet, and some beach erosion.”

Voluntary evacuation orders for Walton County were canceled, and the shelter that had been opened, closed. Walton County Emergency Operations went from Level-2 activation to Level-3 – the lowest level – Thursday evening. But Goldberg urges residents to stay prepared. 

“Weather changes so much in Florida”, Goldberg says. “We urge people to be vigilant, and watch the weather year-round, be prepared and have a disaster preparedness plan and a disaster kit.”

Numerous utility companies are readying crews, vehicles and equipment to go to the hardest-hit areas to restore services after the storm, including Gulf Power Company. Spokesman Jeff Rogers says they’ve been watching the system for the past week. 

“Our crews from across our service area right now are mustering to get ready to deploy to the Panama City area,” says Rogers. “It looks like the storm is going to brush by there.”

Joining Gulf Power workers are counterparts from sister utility Mississippi Power. There’s always a lot of work to be done after a tropical storm or hurricane moves through. Some recent work on the strength of the utility’s power grid appears ready to pay off. 

While the Panama City area is Gulf Power’s initial stop, Rogers says it may not be the only one.

“We may go and assist in central and south Florida, or North Florida, after the storm passes through, depending on where the outages are, and after we finish up here at home in northwest Florida,” Rogers said.

A little closer to home, big waves and extremely rough surf have led to red flag warnings at Pensacola Beach and elsewhere.