DEKLE BEACH: Hurricane Hermine barreled ashore in Florida’s Big Bend on Friday as the first hurricane to hit the state in more than a decade, killing one person and raising a storm surge that destroyed beach-side buildings and bringing soaking rain and tens of thousands of power outages.
In Florida’s capital, toppled trees in Tallahassee also downed power lines and injured people in their homes.
Hermine weakened from its peak wind speed of 80 mph to a tropical storm as it moved into southern Georgia. After pushing through Georgia, Hermine was expected to move into the Carolinas and up the East Coast with the potential for drenching rain and deadly flooding.
A homeless man in Marion County, south of Gainesville, was killed when he was hit by a tree as the storm moved through, Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference.
At Florida’s Dekle Beach, just south of the state’s Big Bend where the peninsula meets the Panhandle, storm surge damaged numerous homes and destroyed storage buildings and a 100-yard fishing pier. It’s about 60 miles southeast of St. Marks.
Resident Nancy Geohagen walked around collecting photos and other items for her neighbors that had been thrown from storage.
“I know who this baseball bat belongs to,” she said plucking it from a pile of debris.
An unnamed spring storm that hit the beach in 1993 killed 10 people as most residents refused to evacuate. This time, only three residents stayed behind. All escaped injury.
At nearby Keaton Beach, about two dozen people waited on a road just after sunrise Friday trying to get to their homes. Police had the road blocked because of flooding. Taylor County Commissioner Jody DeVane said several homes were damaged.
Dustin Beach, 31, had rushed there early Friday from a hospital in Tallahassee where his wife had given birth Thursday night to a girl to see if his home still stood.
“When my wife got up this morning she said, ‘Go home and check on the house. I need to know where we’re going after we leave the hospital,’” Beach said.
Cindy Simpson was waiting near her car, hoping her beach home and boats had made it. “It’s a home on stilts so I put everything upstairs. We have two boats in the boat house and I hope they’re still there,” she said.