A massive thunderstorm with winds reaching up to 60 mph ravaged counties in North Central Florida Monday morning, causing thousands of people to lose power and left some counties assessing unexpected damages.
Gilchrist County experienced the storm’s wrath head on. The severity of the storm was on full display in the area surrounding Trenton High School, where several tree branches were scattered on the concrete outside the school’s gymnasium and massive trees were split in half. County officials weren’t expecting the storm to hit until Tuesday.
Even though the destruction could be seen throughout the county, the east side of Gilchrist County experienced the most damage.
“We typically have trees, powerlines down in any storm with higher winds,” Chief James Campbell of Gilchrist County Fire said. “We just weren’t expecting it for this time.”
Crews from Duke Energy and Central Florida Electric were hard at work Monday restoring power for up to 2,500 residents who lost power. By that afternoon, Campbell said 700 people still were without power, but the goal was to restore all of it by 2:00 p.m. Gilchrist County officials were still assessing the damage caused by the storm in order to determine the total cost of the damages.
In Levy County, residents did not experience the same impact of the storm that those in Gilchrist County endured. David Peaton, the Assistant Director of Emergency Management for Levy County, compared Monday’s storm to a typical summer thunderstorm.
With most average summer thunderstorms, power outages tend to accompany the severe weather. Peaton said more than 1,000 people lost power Monday morning, and by noon that afternoon, the number of Levy County residents without power decreased to about 100-200 people.
All cities in Levy County, except for Williston which runs its own utilities, had crews from either Duke Energy and Central Florida Electric working to restore power.
“[It is] inconvenient for everyone,” Peaton said. “[The county is] confident in our energy partners to restore energy as quickly as possible.”
Peaton said Levy County did not experience major damages due to the storm, but the restoration and cleanup process for both Gilchrist and Levy might be stalled because of looming thunderstorms. He said Levy County is expecting more severe thunderstorms Tuesday, but he is unsure how the impending storms could affect the current cleanup situation.