Storms cause power outages, school closures in Escambia and Santa Rosa (2024)

More than 23,000 households are without power Friday morning across the western Florida Panhandle after severe thunderstorms moved across the region in the early morning hours, with more severe weather on the way.

Santa Rosa says one house destroyed

A Santa Rosa County Building Inspections Department review of storm damage in and around the city of Jay has determined that one residential structure had been destroyed and at least one other severely damaged.

No serious injuries or fatalities have been reported.

The home that was destroyed was located on Watermill Road, according to county spokesperson Brittany Ellers. Reports stated that a couple inside had been thrown from their residence but suffered only minor injuries.

Another home on Spring Street suffered severe damage, Ellers said. Further assessment was being done as department staff who had been in the field convened Friday afternoon to compile their findings.

A final estimate of structures damaged was less than 20, Ellar said. The storm did uproot trees and there was significant damage to power lines across North Santa Rosa County.

Ellar said the only county facility that suffered major damage was Benny Russell Park, which will be closed for the foreseeable people while crews remove debris and assess what structural damage might have been done to county equipment within the park. Chumuckla Park was without power but otherwise escaped the storm unscathed.

EREC service restoration could take days

As of 11 a.m., Escambia River Electric Cooperative had 10,974 customers without power, 75% of its customers. The co-op is the primary electric utility for the northern halves of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

EREC CEO Ryan Campbell told the News Journal that about 4,000 customers without power should have it restored by Friday afternoon, mainly in the southern parts of EREC's service area.

The northern areas, Campbell said, were harder hit and could take "multiple days" to restore service, and they're still evaluating the damage to come up with a more definite estimate.

"We're still evaluating our hardest hit areas," Campbell said. "We are looking at a multiple-day event. I don't know if it's going to be tomorrow or the next day, so Saturday or Sunday, we're hoping at this point. But again, we're still assessing, and we'll have a better idea of that later."

EREC currently has 100 line workers responding the storm, eight-times its normal staff, and is looking to bring in more from mutual aid partners, Campbell said.

Campbell said EREC crews have seen evidence of tornadoes and hurricane-force straight-line winds.

"It's not as widespread as Ivan was, but we haven't seen anything like this since Hurricane Ivan in the pockets that are hardest hit," Campbell said.

Pensacola damage: One person rescued after tree fell on house

A tree fell on a residence at 1811 W. Gadsden St. during the storms that swept through the area early Friday morning. One person was rescued from the debris, evaluated and transported by Emergency Medical Services. The Red Cross has contacted the displaced resident.

Otherwise, the area escaped major damage. Here's a rundown of damage areas provided by the city:

  • Flashing traffic signals at 9th Avenue & Fairfield Drive, along with Palafox Street & Maxwell Street, are fully functional.
  • The traffic signal at the intersection of Bayou Boulevard & Buffalo Wild Wings/AMC Movie Theater Shopping Center is malfunctioning.
  • Trees have been reported down at 9th Avenue & Beau Terra Lane, along with 4445 Devereux Dr.
  • Tree limbs are down at 18th Avenue & Jackson Street and Magnolia Avenue & Lakeview Avenue.

There have been multiple incidents of debris in city roadways and downed powerlines. Public Works crews are currently working to resolve all issues, while inspecting roadways for additional and unreported damage within city limits.

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Escambia County damage: 'Trees all over the place down, especially on the north end'

Escambia Emergency Manager Travis Tompkins said the county has not received any reports of structural damage.

“There are down trees for sure, but not damaged structures,” Tompkins said.

Tompkins said anyone who may have had structural damage to their home can report it to the county using its online damage report tool.

“Obviously, there’s trees all over the place down, especially on the north end,” Tompkins said.

Tompkins said there were several “near misses” where trees narrowly avoided hitting homes. He said in one incident where a tree had fallen in front of a mobile home and Escambia County Fire Resuce had to remove it so people could exit their home.

Road crews were out before sunrise removing fallen trees from roads. Some roads may have obstructions, but Tompkins has no roads in Escambia County that are closed.

Jay takes brunt of storm: 'Multiple residential structures havesignificantdamage'

Santa Rosa County officials were reporting "significant storm damage" across the northern portion of the county, particularly in the area north of Highway 178 in the Jay area.

County spokesperson Brittany Ellers said the county's 911 center "received multiple calls regarding impacts" in the wake of storms that swept through the area in the early morning hours of Friday.

"Multiple residential structures havesignificantdamage reported," Ellers said in an email.

County Administrator Brad Baker said he'd heard reports of roof damage and said that many "accessory structures" had also been damaged in the largely rural area.

The onlymajorroadway closure isHighway 4 between Highway 87 N. and Munson Highway.

Central School, Chumuckla Elementary School, Jay Elementary School, Jay High School and Wallace Lake K-8 School were all closed for the day Friday. Baker said none of the schools had appeared to have suffered structural damage, but the power was out and it was unclear how long it would be before it could be restored.

Choctawhatchee Electrical Cooperative, Escambia River Electric Cooperative and Florida Power and Light, all of which provide utility service in northern Santa Rosa County, were all reporting outages. County Commissioner James Calkins, whose District 3 encompasses the areas most severely damaged, said at one point the EREC was reporting 90% of its customers without power.

"Power lines are down in a bunch of areas and crews are out there trying to clear roads so we can get out and inspect the damage," Baker said at shortly after 9 a.m. "There's a lot of utility infrastructure that will have to be replaced."

Road and Bridge crews had been mobilizedto removedebris from roadwaysand the Building Inspections Department was conducting preliminary damage assessments to impacted areas.

"Residentsare urgedto use extreme caution when traveling due to hazards in the roadways in the north end of the county, Ellers said in her email.

EREC power out north of Milton to Alabama line

An EREC power "outage" map indicated customers had lost power in an area just north of the city of Milton all the way to the Alabama line, with both Santa Rosa and Escambia County residents impacted. A Facebook page message posted early Friday morning stated 4,000 customers were without power. A phone message stated the EREC offices were closed Friday with crews in "emergency response status."

As of 10 a.m., Florida Power and Light was reporting 6,291 Santa Rosa County customers without power.

Santa Rosa County homes damaged, park closed

Santa Rosa County Commissioner James Calkins, whose district includes the northernmost areas of the county, said he'd been given reports of 25 to 30 homes damaged by the storm. He said power outages were widespread in the Pace area and Benny Russell Park had been closed until further notice due to debris on the ground there.

New severe thunderstorm warning issued

The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Central Santa Rosa County and Central Santa Rosa County until 8:30 a.m.

In Escambia and Sant Rosa counties approximately 12,723 Florida Power and Light customers were without power just before 7:30 a.m., with 6,809 in Escambia and 5,914 in Santa Rosa.

In the northern parts of those counties more than 10,587 Escambia River Electric Co-op customers were also without power.

Severe weather moved across the region in the early morning hours with strong winds and the national weather service issued a few tornado warnings.

The storms have downed numerous trees, which have knocked down power lines across the area.

Some Escambia, Santa Rosa Schools closed

Santa Rosa County Schools announced that Central School, Chumuckla Elementary School, Jay Elementary School, Jay High School and Wallace Lake K-8 will be closed for the day. The rest of the schools will operate on a two-hour delay.

Escambia County Schools has also closed Northview High School, Ernest Ward Middle School and Bratt Elementary School for the day. The rest of the schools are operating on a one-hour delay.

Santa Rosa roads closed, partially closed

Storm damage in Santa Rosa County closed one highway and partially closed 14 others.

Highway 4 between Highway 87 and Munson Highway is closed.

The following roadways are partially closed, drivers are asked to use caution and seek alternative routes when possible:

  • Highway 87 North at Whitfield Road
  • Sheridan Drive full
  • Lee Hill Road
  • Lewis Road
  • Hamilton Bridge at Bert Lane
  • Buddy Hardy Road
  • Greenwood Road
  • Ventura Road at Garcon Point
  • Booker Street
  • Glover Lane
  • Chumuckla Highway at Springhill Road
  • West Spencer Field at 12 Oaks
  • 10 Mile Road at Wallace Lake Road
  • Ventura Road

Blackwater River State Forest closed

All facilities associated with Blackwater River State Forest are closed until further notice as a result of the severe weather that moved through the area overnight. Officials from the Florida Forest Service Blackwater Forestry Center expect the clean up to take several days.

See the latest watches and warnings in effect for Escambia, Santa Rosa, counties

Radar for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa counties, including Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach

Rainfall expected? See the latest forecast for Pensacola

Storms cause power outages, school closures in Escambia and Santa Rosa (2024)
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