More than 253,000 people across North and Central Florida lost power late Thursday and early Friday as Hurricane Hermine raced ashore, causing flooding and closing roads across the Gulf Coast before speeding into Georgia.
The eye of Hermine — since downgraded to a tropical storm — made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane about 1:30 a.m. near St. Marks in Wakulla County. Hermine was the first hurricane to directly hit Florida since 2005.
Power remained out Friday morning for about 99 percent of the residents in largely rural Wakulla County, which is south of Tallahassee. About 68 percent of Leon County, which includes Tallahassee, also was without power.
“Some of the state’s hardest-hit areas were along the coast as you would expect,” Gov. Rick Scott said during a media briefing Friday morning at the state Emergency Operations Center.
“There is a lot of work left to do following the storm,” Scott also said. “We’ll spend the coming days assessing the damage and responding to the needs of our communities and Florida families.”
One fatality reported in Marion County, a homeless man reportedly hit by a tree, is believed to have been related to the storm, Scott said.
The state is also checking unconfirmed reports of tornado activity, Scott said.
State offices in 37 counties, along with 31 state parks across North and Central Florida, remained closed on Friday.
Public schools are closed in 35 counties.
There were no reported fuel supply issues, and the state’s major interstates were open.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge spanning Tampa Bay remained closed Friday morning.
Hermine caused a storm surge of nine feet in Taylor County and forced first responders across the region to deal with road closures, downed trees and downed power lines, Scott said.
“Do not travel on the roads until they are clear and safe to do so,” Scott advised. “We expect to see a lot of downed traffic lights and road signs.”
About 41 percent of Taylor County was without power Friday morning.
About 40 percent of Gadsden County was without power, followed by Hamilton County at 38 percent, Jefferson County at 34 percent and Madison County at 31 percent.
Power outages also were reported in Alachua, Franklin, Citrus, Lafayette and Levy counties.
Scott said the number of people without power should fluctuate through the next couple of days.
Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said it may take a couple of days to determine if the state will request federal assistance.
“We’re not there yet,” Koon said. “Once we get life-safety issues done this morning, we’ll start working with the counties to get power back up, get the infrastructure stabilized, then we’ll start into the damage assessment process.”
Scott noted that the governor’s mansion, where he stayed part of Thursday night, lost some trees.