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Kate’s Calling Card: Power Outages, Blocked Roads

November 23, 1985

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Power and water were scarce in Florida’s Panhandle on Friday, while some cities remained isolated by floods or roadblocks and the capital was crippled by trees and utility lines downed by Hurricane Kate.

Nighttime curfews were imposed in Leon County, which includes the capital city of Tallahassee, and Jackson County, which borders the states of Georgia and Alabama.

Anyone out after 11 p.m. in Jackson County will have to have ″a real good reason″ or else they will be subject to arrest, said Sheriff John McDaniel.

Gov. Bob Graham also declared a state of emergency in seven counties, bringing to 19 the number under that designation.

National Guardsmen helped police guard against looting, assist storm victims and keep people away from downed power lines.

For coastal residents, Kate was ″like hitting a man when he’s down,″ said one resident. The coast had been battered by tropical weather three times earlier this year.

″My action will allow state agencies to assist local officials contending with flooding, extensive wind damage and other problems left in the storm’s wake,″ said Graham, who toured the worst-hit areas as Kate, which weakened to a tropical storm in the morning, moved north to South Carolina.

After a tour of the worst-hit areas by military helicopter Friday, Graham said the storm’s destruction was not as extensive as he had believed and said he did not know whether he would request federal disaster aid.

″Most of the damage seemed to be from tidal and standing water as opposed to wind damage,″ Graham said. ″That is you didn’t see any roofs off houses...

″Certainly there will be some counties that will qualify (for federal aid), particularly because you started from the stress of Elena,″ the governor added.

Tom Lewis, head of the Department of Community Affairs, who toured the area with Graham, said Kate probably did more damage than Hurricane Elena, which caused an estimated $44 million in damages in Florida.

″We’ve had hurricanes before, but nothing that pulled trees down like this,″ said Mary Anne Shuman, a 28-year Tallahassee resident. ″There’s a tree down in every yard.″

Usually shady lanes in the southern capital of 89,500 people were sunny Friday, after moss-draped oaks were sheared by the storm. Some 90 percent of capital-area homes were without power Friday morning.

Residents of Florida’s Panhandle, hundreds of thousands without power and many without water, packed buckets and chainsaws Friday to bail flooded homes and move toppled trees.

″In a worst-case scenario, there are people in some areas who won’t get power for a week,″ said Scott Hunt, spokesman for the Tallahassee Police Department.

Some coastal cities, like oyster-rich Apalachicola, were cut off by flooding and washed-out roads and bridges.

This season’s $6.5 million oyster crop, nearly 10 percent of the nation’s supply, was ruined by Hurricane Elena in late September, and Kate’s assault battered the baby oyster beds counted on by residents for a comeback next year.

″There ain’t nobody going to get no oysters for five years,″ said Pete Poloronis, an oyster grower. ″This is the worst it’s ever been. The way we’ve had one hurricane after another here, that’s just like hitting a man when he’s down.″

Officials had difficulty getting water to Apalachicola, where the water tower toppled during the storm. The main coastal highway, U.S. 98, was declared impassable from Carrabelle to Apalachicola, and trees littered other roads into the city.

Telephone communication also was difficult. Emergency officials used National Guard radios.

Residents in four counties remained in shelters waiting for officials to clear a safe path home, but Graham agreed to let residents of four others return home Friday morning.

Damon Fountain, a Liberty County sheriff’s deputy at a roadblock 30 miles north of Apalachicola-Eastpoint said many coastal residents tried to bluff their way past.

″Many say they live just down the road,″ Fountain said. ″You’d be surprised how many people say they live in Clio,″ a blink-and-you-miss-it spot down Florida 65 toward the bay. ″They’ll tell you anything to get to that coast.″

Several seafood packing houses in Eastpoint were reportedly washed away.

″All the fish houses along Eastpoint are pretty much gone,″ said Pal Rivers, Franklin County’s acting director of Civil Defense. ″The water came up over the breakwater, undermined them and washed them all out.″

The causeway to St. George Island, just rebuilt after Elena, was washed away again, Rivers said. At least 15 miles of U.S. 98 between Eastpoint and Carrabelle also were wiped out.

Kate, which Thursday evening became the first November hurricane to make landfall in 50 years, forced the evacuation of 100,000 Panhandle residents and was blamed for five deaths in Florida, one in Georgia, and up to 10 deaths in Cuba.

Wewahitchka Mayor Billy Traylor was hospitalized in guarded condition Friday for injuries he suffered in an automobile accident while on his way to a meeting of civil defense officials.

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