State officials give updates following intense storm patterns across Florida

by | Jan 9, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 49 Florida counties following intense weather events, including tornadoes, that led to widespread power outages, school closures, and mobilization of emergency services and utility crews for response and recovery efforts.

A series of high-intensity weather events across Florida, including at least four confirmed tornadoes, has prompted Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency in 49 counties across the state. The declaration, aimed at marshaling resources to impacted regions, comes as storms continue to traverse Florida, bringing heavy winds, rain, and widespread power outages.

Kevin Guthrie, Executive Director at the Division of Emergency Management, detailed the state’s response in a press conference held on Tuesday afternoon, informing members of the media that the State Emergency Operations Center is activated at level one, with all response partners present and in close communication with county emergency management offices.

“These storms are going to be capable of producing widespread damaging winds up to 70 miles an hour, and tornadoes and large hail are possible,” said Guthrie. “This line of storms will reach the West Central Coast of Florida this afternoon just before becoming slightly weaker over the southern peninsula. As we go through the night hours I remind residents to heed all warnings from local officials.”

The severe weather, which began impacting Northwest Florida early this morning, has led to the closure of 34 school districts, with at least Jackson County confirmed to remain closed tomorrow.

Power outages have affected approximately 87,000 accounts, per state officials, as utility crews are actively working to restore power, and Florida Highway Patrol troopers have been deployed to the Panhandle to assist with critical equipment and personnel movement.

“We are quickly and safely responding to severe weather that has impacted our customers in the Panhandle and are ready to respond as storms move across the state throughout the day,” Florida Power and Light said on X.

The Florida State Guard has also been activated to assist with damage assessments, starting today. In Bay County, a Technical Rescue team is on-site, conducting damage evaluations in impacted areas. According to the governor, Florida Department of Transportation crews have been actively clearing downed trees and debris on major roads, including Interstate 10 in Walton and Holmes counties, and in Okaloosa, Jackson, and Leon counties.

Guthrie also noted that Florida might request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but this depends on whether the storm damage meets certain federal criteria. If the damage is not extensive enough for FEMA aid, the state may instead seek help from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which is common for more localized disasters in Florida, though the final decision will be based on detailed damage assessments currently being conducted in the affected counties.


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