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Saturday, December 04, 2021
<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-fa5f594e-7fff-ca95-4bc0-640795ed6e4a"><span>The Shell sign is scattered across the ground Friday after strong winds blew it down during a storm at the Shell gas station, 3330 SW Archer Road. Daphne Roberson, an employee at the station, said she saw the sign go down around 11 a.m. “It just all of a sudden happened,” she said. “I looked up and it was flying across the air.”</span></span></p>

The Shell sign is scattered across the ground Friday after strong winds blew it down during a storm at the Shell gas station, 3330 SW Archer Road. Daphne Roberson, an employee at the station, said she saw the sign go down around 11 a.m. “It just all of a sudden happened,” she said. “I looked up and it was flying across the air.”

Thousands of residents are without power in Alachua County due to a severe thunderstorm.

About 24,000 Gainesville Regional Utilities customers and more than 2,000 Duke Energy customers are still left without power after a thunderstorm passed through Gainesville leaving the area with heavy rainfall and wind.

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the county at 9:28 a.m. and placed it under a tornado watch at 12:54 p.m., which remained in effect until 4 p.m. for areas in Northeast Florida, including Gainesville, said Kip Bricker, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Jacksonville. The wind advisory is issued until about 8 p.m.

The main line of the storm passed through downtown Gainesville at about 1:30 p.m. Bricker said. At 3:36 p.m., GRU tweeted that power was restored for 10,000 customers.

GRU crews are still assessing damage and restoring power when it’s safe.

At 1:50 p.m., the Duke Energy outage map reported about 1,000 customers in High Springs, about 965 customers in Archer City and about 587 customers near Alachua City without power.

An updated number of Duke customers is unavailable do to the online map currently being down.

The main UF campus has not experienced a power outage, but the 105 building, which is near midtown across from university has remained down since about noon, said UF spokesperson Steve Orlando. This building is on the GRU grid, while the main campus works on Duke energy.

Trees also came down on campus, including one by the Reitz Union bus stop and another near Museum and Radio Road, which was cleared at about 1 p.m., Orlando said. Workers are still clearing other debris.

Here’s how different organizations and areas of Alachua County have been affected:

Closed businesses and downed lights

While GRU crews assess damage and being to dispatch workers to restore power, several businesses and restaurants in Gainesville are closed.

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Businesses on West University Avenue that have closed include Piesanos, the Chick-fil-A at The Standard, Chipotle and businesses inside the Target Copy building.

The storm didn’t just impact businesses, but also affected traffic.

As of 2:30 p.m., several traffic lights were not operating because of downed power lines and tree debris, according to a Gainesville Police tweet.

At Northwest 34th Street and 16th Avenue, a tree blocked the southbound lane and the traffic signals were powerless, according to a tweet from the Gainesville Transportation Management Center.

Gainesville Police said in a tweet that officers are at the scenes guiding traffic, but drivers who approach an intersection where lights are not working should stop as if it were a four-way stop intersection.

Alachua County Sheriff’s Office

Alachua County Sheriff’s Office advised residents to stay indoors during the storm and warned people about fallen trees and power lines.

The sheriff’s office has informed the public on its progress and status of providing aid during the storm through Twitter.

At noon, the sheriff’s office tweeted that deputies cars were being pushed around by gusts of winds from the storm. They advised residents to stay indoors and avoid downed power lines.

At about 1:30 p.m., it tweeted that deputies were placed in schools that had outages and that they will stay in the schools until dismissal.

At about 1:151 p.m., it tweeted that a “chainsaw crew” was sent to SW 154 Street and State Road 24 to assist with removing debris and fallen power lines.

Art Forgey, a sheriff’s office spokesperson, said there is no delay in service for 911 calls but advised residents to stay indoors due to traffic light outages and trees blocking roadways.

“It’s a real mess out there, we got hit pretty hard,” Forgey said.

Alachua County Public Schools

Alachua County Public School also experienced power outages in some of its schools.

At 12:20 p.m., it tweeted that some schools were without power and that students were brought into permanent buildings, but can’t be released until it its safe.

At 12:51, another tweet was sent that stated the power was out at High Springs, Lake Forest, Hidden Oak, Westwood, Archer, Terwilliger, Irby, Ft. Clarke, Buchholz, Alachua, Glen Springs, Eastside. About an hour later, a tweet was posted that said Idylwood and Finely were added to the list of schools without power.

Some buses at middle and high schools in the county can be up to an hour late, the county tweeted at 4:01 p.m.

UF and Santa Fe College

With no power outages on the main campus, classes at UF will continue as scheduled, Orlando said.

Power outages on the UF main campus are rare because the university operates with underground utilities, Orlando said.

“It’s a very secure system,” Orlando said.

Damages on UF campus include several cars that a tree fell on at the Housing Supply Warehouse, which UF Facilities Services responded to, cleaning up debris and calling a tow truck, Orlando said. Traffic lights were also out from Gale Lemerand to Southwest 13th Street.

Construction fencing used to block the sidewalk also came down on the eastside of the UF Infirmary, Orlando said. A bike was also damaged at Little Hall from a tree, which fell on its tire. A tree also fell on a vehicle at the Aquatic Food Products Lab.

Other trees down include limbs down on an electric meter at Hume Commons, which Facilities Services responded to, Orlando said. At Cancer Genetics, Facilities Services removed part of a tree that fell.

UF Shands issued a series of alerts warning about severe weather in North Central Florida at 12:45 p.m. According to the alerts, operations in Spring Hill, Mag Park & Haile Plantation were affected by severe weather.

UF Health tweeted at 2:13 p.m. that UF Health Springhill 1 and 2, UF Health Magnolia Parke and UF Health Haile Plantation all closed due to the the storm. UF Health Tower Hill physician practices also closed.

The tweet also stated that UF Health Shands Emergency Center in Springhill and UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital will remain open.

Santa Fe College closed, issuing an advisory around 12:30 p.m. warning residents to travel only if it is safe to do so.

Gainesville Fire Rescue

At 12:40 p.m., Gainesville Fire Rescue sent out a tweet to urge residents to stay alert and be cautious of their surroundings. It also stated that the rescue responded to several calls about trees falling down in houses, downed power lines and blocked roads.

Gainesville Regional Airport

The storm has delayed and canceled everal flights from Gainesville Regional Airport.

Two arriving flights, American 3721 from Miami and American 5329 from Charlotte, were canceled.

Two departures were canceled for Friday afternoon, including American 5261 to Charlotte and American 3720 to Miami. Delta 5543 and Delta 4177, both to Atlanta, are delayed.

The airport has not lost power or closed due to storms, said Erin Porter, the airport’s marketing and public relations manager. The airport will run on a generator if power is lost. During periods of lightning, airport workers had stop outside operations.

Garth Brooks’ private flight into the University Air Center was also delayed, though his departure city is unknown, Porter said.

Further delays or cancellations depend on the storm that stretches across several major airport cities like Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia. Porter said the airport cannot anticipate further flight changes.

“When you have cities like Atlanta, Charlotte and Miami that are all affected by this storm, it’s hard to anticipate,” Porter said.

The Shell sign is scattered across the ground Friday after strong winds blew it down during a storm at the Shell gas station, 3330 SW Archer Road. Daphne Roberson, an employee at the station, said she saw the sign go down around 11 a.m. “It just all of a sudden happened,” she said. “I looked up and it was flying across the air.”

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