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Franklin County spared Fred’s fury

The first significant storm of the 2021 hurricane season to hit Franklin County stormed in with all the finesse of Fred Flintstone and then left with the nimbleness of Fred Astaire.

With students hunkered down at home, Tropical Storm Fred made landfall at Cape San Blas around 3:15 p.m., Monday afternoon, flooding roadways and tearing off tree limbs.

The storm prompted an early closure of Indian Pass Road near CR-30.  Duke Energy said that about 3,600 customers in Franklin County were without power, as of 6 p.m. Monday. Still out as of early Tuesday evening were about 173 Duke customers in the county.

Students were back in class Wednesday morning, after Superintendent Steve Lanier had decided to close schools for a second day Tuesday, as was the case in Gulf County.

“The decision to close our schools was made after consultation with Franklin County Emergency Management officials,” said Lanier in a news release Monday afternoon. “This will allow school and county officials time to inspect our schools and county roads to make sure it is safe to return on Wednesday. “

As a whole, the county fared well, with no reported injuries, and mainly tree limbs and palm fronds strewn everywhere. 

After closing them earlier Tuesday afternoon when wind speeds exceeded 45 mph, Franklin County Sheriff AJ Smith ordered the re-opening of the Gorrie Bridge between Eastpoint and Apalachicola, and the Bryant Patton Bridge, between Eastpoint and St. George Island, at about 5:45 p.m.

According to the National Weather Service, the highest wind speed on Monday, recorded in Apalachicola, was 51 mph, with the highest gust speed 68 mph. The average wind speed was 18.1 mph.

All told there was about 4 inches of rain in Apalachicola Monday. So far this month there has been about 9.6 inches of rain, about 5.4 inches more than normal. Last year there was only 2.8 inches at this point in the month of August.

Since June 1,  about 24 inches of rain have fallen in Apalachicola, about 8.3 inches more than normal and more than twice what had fallen between June 1 and Aug. 16, 2020.

With nearly 50 inches of rain so far this year, 2021 is running about three times the precipitation at this point last year, and about 17 inches ahead of a normal year at this time of about 33 inches.

The emergency operations center remained open through the night, activated as a Level 2, staffed by Emergency Management Director Pam Brownell,  Deputy Director Jennifer Daniels, and Special Needs Coordinator Amanda Anthony.

“Double red flags are flying at all beaches,” Daniels stressed.  “Stay out of the water, don’t risk our  responders’ lives. 

After the storm passed, Smith took to Facebook to over thanks. “First and foremost I thank God we were spared major damage. Secondly, I thank the brave men and women of the Franklin County Sheriffs Office who always put out 110 percent,” he said.

“These men and women are the best of the best in law enforcement. I consider them an Olympic team. Highly trained and committed to serving at all costs. From cutting trees out of the roads to rescuing pelicans in driving rain and howling winds,” Smith said.

“I also want to thank an amazing community who help each other not only during hard times but every day. The acts of kindness shown to me humbles me. From the nice lady who bought me breakfast at 7 a.m. this morning to Rex Pennycuff at Fisherman’s Choice who donated landing nets to rescue pelicans.,” he said, “I’m sure others within the agency experienced similar acts of kindness. We are proud and humbled to serve the citizens of Franklin County and the people who visit here.”

The emergency operations center has asked property owners who have damge to their homes from Tropical Storm Fred, to report them by emailing em1frank@fairpoint.net, or call 850-653-5608. Please include your name, address, description of damage, and photos if you have them.

A local state of emergency had been declared by the county commissioners on Thursday morning, Aug. 12, and they cancelled their meeting slated for Aug. 17.

As is typical, Alligator Point Road had been closed for a time,  after a voluntary evacuation was issued Sunday for the Point, as well as Bald Point and other barrier islands.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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