It had been more than a decade since Franklin County took a direct hit from a hurricane but 2016 broke the county’s prevailing streak of luck when Hurricane Hermine made landfall here Sept. 1.
Franklin County's midsection was spared the wrath of Hermine but not its end to the east. County officials issued a mandatory evacuation order 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.
According to the National Weather Service, Franklin County received a record-setting 3.5 inches of rain, 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 after rocks and other debris had collected there and posed a safety hazard. Steadily overwashed by waves all afternoon, the road was by dawn completely inundated.
When wind speeds exceeded the threshold of 45 mph, the sheriff's office closed the Bryant Patton Bridge between Eastpoint and St. George 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.
Residents in Carrabelle and Apalachicola spent the following morning sweeping away fallen branches and other mild debris beneath sunny skies. The power had stayed on throughout in both 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.
In Alligator Point utility crews addressed a major leak in the Alligator Point water system, and shore up an access road to free about 200 residents trapped in their homes without electricity or water. The one lane detour created still remains open until more permanent repairs can be completed.
At the Sept. 6 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 commissioners planned to write a letter to state authorities.
Cong. Gwen Graham sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to quickly approve any request from the state for federal disaster assistance. Letters of support for such a declaration were forthcoming from Gov. Rick Scott and Florida senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson.
In late September, President Obama issued a federal declaration of disaster for the county but aid did not extend to individual businesses and property owners.
Franklin County was also affected when Hurricane Matthew approached Florida’s east coast in early October but in a more positive way. County lodgings filled to capacity as thousands fled the potentially deadly storm and remained when homes from Daytona to St. Augustine were left without power for days. Restaurants and local shops reported robust sales.