Category 1 Hurricane Irma wreaks havoc

After a long night of strong winds and driving rain from Hurricane Irma, David Richardson, the spokesperson for Nassau County Emergency Management, said Monday afternoon, “This is far worse than Matthew,” referring to the hurricane that scraped within 50 miles of Nassau County 11 months ago.

“Worse” Richardson believed, in terms of flooding, downed trees, debris, and blocked roads.

A drive around Fernandina Beach Monday afternoon revealed at least three streets blocked by huge, fallen oak trees: South Third Street at Ash, Elm Street at South Third, and a large tree across the street between 30 South 3rd St. and the 29 South restaurant.

A tree that was blocking A1A at the south end of the island had been cleared as of Tuesday morning and the MacArthur-Fishler Bridge across the Nassau Sound on the south end of Amelia Island was open. FDOT reported Tuesday evening the road at Brown’s Creek bridge on Heckscher Drive needs repairs. Drivers from Amelia Island will still be able to get to the Mayport Ferry.

Other massive trees were down on roofs and in yards across the city, and broken limbs and leaf litter covered many streets and roads.

Power lines were down on Pogy Place between the North 14th Street bridge and the Dee Dee Bartels Boat Ramp and Nature Center.

Florida Public Utilities customers on Amelia Island can call (800) 427-7712 if they are still without power. Florida Power and Light customers can either go to www.fpl.com/my-account/web-outage.html to report an outage if you can find internet access, or call 1-800-4-OUTAGE (1-800-468-8243).

Most of a parked car was underwater at North 8th and Calhoun streets in Fernandina Beach on Monday, a notorious area for flooding. At 432 Escambia Street, Jimmy Green said, “In all my life – 47 years – all these trees falling – I have never seen anything like that before.” Escambia Street was heavily flooded between North 2nd and 8th streets.

A friend, Carol Jones, was helping Green pick up fallen limbs. A tree had fallen on power lines next to the house.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officer Tom Tucker said at 1:30 p.m. Monday that he and many others were on “alpha bravo” shifts of 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Tucker was reporting back damage, such as the downed power lines on Pogy Place to state authorities coordinating the hurricane response.

In Fernandina Beach, Coastal Vision Center at 6 South 14th St. and Atlantic Avenue already had a big downed tree sawn into pieces and placed on the side of the street.

Fifty-five percent of the county was without power on Monday midday, according to Richardson, including all of Amelia Island. Richardson said a transmission line was down, but he did not know where. Power was coming back as of 5 p.m. Monday and was back on at the News-Leader’s office on Tuesday morning.

A Tuesday news release from Baptist Jacksonville said Baptist Nassau Medical Center had opened at noon for hospital and emergency services. “Baptist Nassau will resume full operation as of 8 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, including outpatient and elective procedures, outpatient imaging and lab services, and physician offices in the Medical Office Buildings. Baptist South and Baptist Jacksonville have maintained hospital operations during and after the storm. Assessments of the medical offices on those campuses is underway and a reopening announcement will be forthcoming,” the release said.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital remains fully operational. Baptist Heart Specialists, Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute, Baptist Neurology, Lyerly Neurosurgery, Baptist ENT Specialists, Baptist Infectious Disease, Baptist Rheumatology, Baptist OB GYN Nassau, Baptist Pulmonary Specialists, Baptist Urology Group Nassau, Baptist Behavioral Health and Baptist Endocrinology were supposed to open by noon Tuesday.

Speaking to the News-Leader on Tuesday, Baptist Medical Center Nassau president Ed Hubel said patients who had been evacuated prior to Hurricane Irma were being returned to the facility on Tuesday. He announced the facility would resume normal operations today, including elective and outpatient procedures and services offered in its Medical Office Buildings.

Hubel said the medical center had sustained no structural damage from the storm, only minor water leaks which have already been repaired.

Flooding in the area of the MacArthur-Fishler Bridge over the Nassau River at the south end of island kept A1A closed to Little Talbot Island Monday, but the bridge was open on Tuesday.

The Thomas J. Shave Jr. Bridge over the Amelia River is open.

Nassau County’s public schools are to remain closed through Wednesday.

A 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew imposed over the weekend was lifted on Tuesday afternoon.

Fernandina Beach city offices will remain closed through Wednesday. The city’s garbage pickup will resume on Thursday, Sept. 14. Yard services will begin on Monday, Sept. 18.

Peg Davis, Michael Miller, Pamela Bushnell and Robert Fiege contributed to this report.

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