UPDATE: 1:48 P.M.

While Alligator Point was hardest hit, there was also serious damage in other areas of the county.

Dog Island resident Terri Cannon said there has been major erosion on Dog Island off of Carrabelle.

“The shorebird nesting area is flattened. All of the turtle nests are gone. It’s sad,” said Cannon.

She said the Pelican Inn cannot be entered and will be surrounded by water at high tide due to erosion. The stairs are gone. Several houses also have major damage and are now surrounded by water. Island residents lost power for part of the night but it has been restored. No injuries have been reported.

On Magnolia Bluff in Eastpoint, Bob Allen, owner of the Sportsman’s Lodge, said his White Eagle Lodge restaurant building partially collapsed around 1:30 a.m.

The lower dining room, around 600 square feet, was undermined and some of the piers supporting it seem to have shifted. He said the north end of the floor suddenly dropped about six inches, shattering plate glass windows. An attached deck and walkway collapsed.

Allen said he has no insurance on the building which was not being operated as a restaurant at the time of the storm.

Damage in Apalachicola was minor. There was litter in parks, yards and streets. Several small trees and limbs fell. A small tree fell across 14th Street, blocking the roadway but city police had removed it by 7:30 a.m.

A few electric lines to streetlamps were down in the historic district. Onle small, scattered power outages were reported.

St. George Island experienced minor flooding. Standing water was visible on the bay side of the island at 10 a.m. Friday morning but streets were passible. Watermarks indicated the water had reached about two feet in some areas. Residents report they did not lose power. Some houses lost siding in the wind, but there was no apparent evidence of structural damage.

Apalachicola stores and restaurants remain open, but some shops on the island were closed Friday, but all said they intend to be open Saturday.

On Friday morning vacation rental companies were busy inspecting properties in preparation for a busy Labor Day weekend. The beaches and streets are empty but the weather is perfect.

UPDATE: 10:44 a.m. Friday

Utility crews are addressing a major leak in the Alligator Point water system,  and working to free up an access road to free about 200 residents trapped in their homes without electricity or water.

“It’s draining our overhead tank. They looking for the leak right now, that’s a high priority,” said Allan Feifer, an Alligator Point resident and volunteer for CERT, the community emergency response team.

He said there are three power lines down on Alligator Drive, the 3,000-foot main evacuation route for about 500 homes on Alligator Point,  

“Right now the western half is unable to be evacuated,” said Alan Pierce, the county’s director of administrative services., early this morning. “Fortunately, no one’s been killed, or hurt.”

Pierce said crews hope to restore an 800-foot stretch of Angus Morrison Drive, to use as a temporary connector that will enable access to the trapped residents

Gulf Shore Boulevard, a road running along the bayfront to a half-dozen homes, was out of commission Thursday afternoon as well.

“There’s severe damage on Gulf Shore Boulevard, exposed water pipes, it’s completely shot,” said Feifer. “The road condition is in worst condition than it was after Hurricane Dennis in 2005.”

According to the National Weather Service, Franklin County received a record-setting 3.5 inches of rain for that date, with wind speeds as high as 38 mph, and gusts as high as 53 mph.

UPDATE: 9:15 a.m. Friday

Hurricane Hermine took mercy on most of Franklin County, sparing her wrath for Alligator Point on the easternmost edge, where residents in about 200 houses remained trapped this morning, without power and in many case without water.

“Right now the western half is unable to be evacuated,” said Alan Pierce, the county’s director of administrative services., early this morning. “Fortunately, no one’s been killed, or hurt.”

According to the National Weather Service, Franklin County received a record-setting 3.5 inches of rain for that date, with wind speeds as high as 38 mph, and gusts as high as 53 mph.

Alligator Drive, the main evacuation route for about 500 homes on Alligator Point, was closed Wednesday afternoon by the sheriff’s office because rocks and other debris had collected there and posed a safety hazard. Steadily overwashed by waves all afternoon, it was by dawn completely inundated.

Pierce said if 800 of the 3,000 feet of road that is underwater can be recovered, evacuation will be possible. He said crews are busy working.

Several houses showed signs of being undermined, as early as Wednesday afternoon.. Gulf Shore Boulevard, a road running along the bayfront to a half-dozen homes, was out of commission Wednesday afternoon as well.

Ray Maynard, who has lived on Alligator Point for 13 years, said the situation quickly turned rough yesterday.

“Our water lines run under the beach so they had to be shut down. We have no water in  the house,” he said.

In the past, Maynard said, as much as four feet of water has been under his home.

“It’s a part of living here. You hope it doesn’t happen but it comes around,” he said. “We’ll probably lose a couple more feet of road tonight.

Moving the road off the shoreline has been a major headache for the past three years, ever since the county received a half-million dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to restore the road, said Pierce.

“The state, the county and the residents, are all in agreement. They want it moved behind the rental houses so they can have secure access. Everybody’s in agreement except FEMA,” he said. “That want to allow me to use the half million dollars earmarked for road restoration. I want to use it for road relocation.”

Franklin County issued a mandatory evacuation order Wednesday evening for residents who live on the barrier islands; at Alligator Point or Bald Point; for all low-lying areas of the county and sections along the coast prone to surge flooding and for all residents who live in mobile homes or RV’s.

Capt. Brad Segree,  from the  Franklin County  Sheriff's  Office, said most visitors and residents complied, but not all.

"We can't physically remove them. You can imagine how that would go," said Segree. "We've been sending deputy sheriffs out and about to check on them."

At about 5:30 p.m., when wind speeds exceeded the threshold of 45 mph, the sheriff’s office closed the Bryant Patton Bridge between Eastpoint and the island, and issued a curfew order for 9 p.m. for the island.

Officials were able to avoid closing the John Gorrie Bridge that runs between Apalachicola and Eastpoint, since a detour northward can turn a 10-minute drive across the Apalachicola River into a two-hour trek, in good weather.

3:03 p.m. Thursday

The Oyster City Brewery Company, Apalachicola's hometown brew, has about a dozen customers, enjoying a beer as the storm approaches.

"There's a lot of locals just hanging out, riding out the storm, to see what's going on, talking old stories and making the best of it," said Jennifer Keel, server at the bar.

Danny Itzkovits, owner of Tamara's Café, has brought in a live band to his restaurant. "We'll wait it out," he said. "Music starts at 7 p.m"

Capt. Brad Segree,  from the  Franklin County  Sheriff's  Office, said both non-residents and residents have been evacuated from St. George Island,  and from Alligator Point  on the eastern  end  of  the  county, and while the majority have left,  not everyone has  complied.

"They have refused to leave. We can't physically remove them. You can imagine how that would go," said Segree. "We've been sending deputy sheriffs out and about to check on them."

In the event that winds exceed 45 mph, then the Bryant Patton Bridge to the island will close. but so far the top sustained wind speed has been 29 mph, with one gust up to 41 mph.

There has been no major flooding, although spots in the county are under water due to earlier rains.

"We do have standing water in several locations simply because of rain," said Segree. 

1:55 p.m. Weather officials are confirming that hurricane force winds are expected to strike the Big Bend area by early evening tonight.

As of 1:45 p.m., the National Weather Service  said Tropical Storm Hermine is gradually strengthening as it moves north-northeastward towards the Gulf of Mexico coast. The NWS said the storm is forecast to be a Category I hurricane by landfall tonight. 

Hurricane warnings are in effect for all coastal areas in the Big Bend, as well as inland counties along I-10 from Liberty to Madison counties.

Storm surge inundation is expected to begin this afternoon with the main impacts tonight, including wind damage, especially to trees, which could lead to power outages, flooding rains, and isolated tornadoes.

Scores of utility trucks are massing in Franklin County in expectation of what could limbs down, flooding and possible power outages.

9:44 a.m., Thursday: Sandbags are available at the Franklin County Emergency Operations Center, 28 Airport Road, in Apalachicola.  Sandbags are limited to 10 bags per household, and only if you are prone to coastal flooding or your house is on ground level.

Sandbags in Carrabelle are available at the county annex on US 98 and at the football field adjacent to the city complex on Grey Avenue, the former Carrabelle High School.

In Eastpoint, sandbags are available at the road department on State Route 65, and on St. George Island they are available at the Jay Abbott Fire House.

The county courthouse will close at noon today, and will be closed all day Friday. Clerk of Courts Marcia Johnson also reminded people that the courthouse will be closed on Monday, for Labor Day.  Any questions, call 653-8861 ext 100, or dial O.

As of 7 a.m. the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for the coastal area from Mexico Beach to the Suwannee River.

The center of TS Hermine is currently located about 195 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and higher gusts. The central pressure is 29.9 inches.

The storm is moving toward the north-northeast near 12 mph (19 km/h), and this motion with a slight increase in forward speed is expected during to continue for the next day or so.  On the forecast track, the center of TS Hermine will be near the Florida coast in the warning area tonight or early Friday, which is likely to affect Franklin County.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles to the east and southeast of the center.

Franklin County issued a mandatory evacuation order for visitors in at-risk areas at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. At 6 p.m. a mandatory evacuation order was issued for residents who live on St. George Island and Dog Island; at Alligator Point or Bald Point; for all low-lying areas of the county; for all residents who live along the coastline or are prone to surge flooding and all residents who live in mobile homes or RV’s.

There were complaints at some real estate offices yesterday when angry visitors asked why they had to leave.

Storm surge will be a concern with inundation values predicted to be at 3 to 6 feet above normal. All residents who live along the coastline or are prone to surge flooding should make immediate preparations., such as securing boats, vehicles, and yard items such as chairs, umbrellas, etc. This includes moving vehicles to higher ground and making sure your disaster kit is ready and accessible.

Crawfordville Elementary will open as a shelter open today at 5 p.m.  Hotel rooms are still available in Eastpoint and Apalachicola. The Tourist Development Council has compiled a list of available hotel rooms and released an email this morning telling people to call 850-670-FISH (3474) if they need a place to stay.

Please monitor the weather closely for the next several days.  Also, there is an elevated risk of rip current for the next several days.  Please use caution! 

Franklin County Schools are closed Thursday and Friday.  The Carrabelle city meeting is postponed until Thursday, Sept. 8. The Calendar Girls debut party scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Oyster City Brewery will be rescheduled at a later date. State offices and Julian Bruce State Park on St. George Island will be closed Thursday and information on when they will reopen will be issued after the storm makes landfall.

In Apalachicola some downtown businesses say they will remain closed or plan to close early.

Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the coast within the warning area beginning tonight.  Winds are expected to first reach tropical storm strength by this afternoon, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous.  Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion. 

The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.  There is a danger of life-threatening inundation within the next 36 hours along the Gulf coast of Florida from Aripeka to Indian Pass. Promptly follow any instructions, including evacuation orders, from local officials.

The water could reach four to seven feet above ground if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide. For more information visit www.hurricanes.gov/graphics_at4.shtml?wsurge.

Hermine is expected to produce storm total rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches over portions of northwest Florida and southern Georgia through Friday, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches. These rains may cause life-threatening flash flooding.

A few tornadoes are possible this afternoon into Friday morning over north Florida and southeast Georgia.