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Storm zaps power for 2400 customers

A crew dismantles the large tree that fell onto a W. Ohio Ave. duplex the evening of October 7.Sunday night’s thunderstorm knocked out power for an estimated 2400 Baker County customers and left a number of north Macclenny residents looking for new places to live.

About 8:30-9 pm a large uprooted tree fell into the roof of a two-unit duplex at 675 W. Ohio Ave., puncturing sizable holes that made way for the nearly 3-inches of rainfall that accompanied the storm the evening of October 7.

The next morning, the 2130-square-foot duplex’s occupants were busy moving out as a work crew dismantled the tree outside.

“It shook the house,” recalled Connie Walker, an 8-year tenant of the property owned by Donnie and Barbara Gaines.

Next, Ms. Walker said, water began coming through the air conditioning vents. Then, the bedroom ceiling collapsed on her mattress.

Ms. Walker, who works for the Florida Department of Transportation in St. Augustine, said she was able to remove most of her property, besides the bed, before it was damaged. Her two pet dachshunds went unharmed as well.

“It could have been worse. Everyone’s OK and my stuff is replaceable,” she said while moving her things into a U-Haul truck.

She wasn’t ready to find humor in the quote, artfully painted on her bedroom wall, however. It reads: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

“I can’t laugh at it yet,” she said, “but it is ironic.”

In addition, a number of residents at the Northwood Apartments on E. Ohio Ave. were evacuated by the Macclenny fire department due to flooding at the property. City Manager Gerald Dopson said the cause was a clogged storm drain.

The storm brought with it almost half the precipitation that fell over Macclenny between October 1 and October 8, some 6.2 inches, according to measurements from the weather station at the Ag Center.

The station also recorded winds as high as 26.5 mph during the storm.

Some 2000 Florida Power & Light customers lost power county-wide Sunday and crews were working early this week to restore power to a few hundred customers in Macclenny.

The Okeefenokee Rural Electric Membership Corporation (OREMC) reported only 2-3 outages the day of the storm, but a fallen tree caused another 297 outages on Monday, October 8. Spokesman Gary Strickland said power had been restored to all customers by Monday afternoon.

Adam Faircloth, emergency management director for the sheriff’s office, said the department received reports of seven downed trees and four downed power lines during what he called “a significant rain event,” which developed in only a few hours with little warning.

Mr. Faircloth began receiving updates from the National Weather Service, which was tracking the storm over Union, Bradford and Baker counties, late Sunday. They warned of rain here and hail to the south.

“Typically, when we get that cyclonic activity, they’re on the phone with us asking about any reports of tornadoes or downgusts on the ground, but we didn’t get any of that,” he said.

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