Franklin County’s midsection was spared the wrath of Hurricane Hermine but not its end to the east.
In a county whose Gulf of Mexico coastline stretches more than 50 miles, and spans three rivers, it was Alligator Point, and the county’s four barriers islands, that got the worst of Hermine.
Residents in Carrabelle spent Friday morning sweeping away fallen branches and other mild debris beneath sunny skies, just as they did in Apalachicola, with scattered complaints about minor damage. The power had stayed on throughout in these two cities.
But three miles off the Carrabelle coast, accessible only by water, Dog Island, with a year-round population of fewer than 50, sustained serious damage.
Longtime resident Terri Cannon said major erosion had flattened the shorebird nesting area. “All of the turtle nests are gone. It’s sad,” said Cannon.
She said the island’s sole lodging spot, the Pelican Inn, was surrounded by water at high tide and could not be accessed. The stairs had washed away.
Several houses also sustained damage and were surrounded by water, Cannon said. Island residents lost power for part of the night. No injuries have been reported.
In Alligator Point Friday morning, utility crews were addressing a major leak in the Alligator Point water system, and working to shore up an access road to free about 200 residents trapped in their homes without electricity or water.
Allan Feifer, an Alligator Point resident and volunteer for CERT, the community emergency response team, said there were 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 Friday morning. “Fortunately, no one’s been killed, or hurt.”
Pierce said crews were able to restore an 800-foot stretch of Angus Morrison Drive, to use as a temporary connector that enabled 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 was 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.”
Ray Maynard, who has lived on Alligator Point for 13 years, said the situation quickly turned rough Thursday..
“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.”
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.
At the Tuesday morning county commission meeting, there was high praise by commissioners for the work of Emergency Management Director Pam Brownell and her staff.
Commissioner Cheryl Sanders called for giving Alligator Drive back to the state, and they plan to write a letter to state authorities. Gov. Rick Scott stopped by Alligator Point Saturday afternoon, and inspected the damage and met with residents.
“Franklin County doesn’t have the money to build the road back,” said Sanders. “One of the best scenarios is to have the state take it over. Or build a bigger seawall and raise the road.”
Solid Waster Director Fonda Davis said trash pickup will be delayed until they receive an emergency declaration from the state.
“Do not pick up anything along state highway until I find out what the state will do,” said Brownell. “We can start county roads but everything has to be documented and kept separate until we are declared. We can implement debris contract but if we don’t get a declaration it will be on the county tab. If municipalities need help they must put it in writing.”
Commissioner Smokey Parrish said “I don’t see Fonda catching up for a month. If we get a blow and stuff will blow all, over people’s yards again.”
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.
Sandbags were available at the Franklin County Emergency Operations Center, 28 Airport Road, in Apalachicola. Sandbags were 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 were 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 were 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 closed at noon Thursday, and was closed all day Friday.
Franklin County Schools were closed Thursday and Friday.