Florida under Siege

The Big Bend area felt the effects of Tropical Storm Frances as the center of the storm made landfall Monday afternoon about 20 miles south of Tallahassee.

The storm brought with it heavy rains and tropical storm force winds gusting up to 65 mph at times.

“The impact of this storm on other parts of Florida and the forecasts for Tallahassee indicated a serious threat, and we were prepared for major impacts,” said Mayor John Marks in a release by the city of Tallahassee. “Fortunately, Hurricane Frances didn’t strengthen in the Gulf as predicted, and it basically skirted around us. I’m incredibly pleased with our community for taking this storm seriously, and I am proud of our city employees who worked around the clock to restore services, keep roads clear and ensure that the city was prepared.”

Frances continued its trek through much of the Big Bend area Monday heading into Georgia at about 9 mph.

By 7:30 p.m. Monday evening, the city of Tallahassee reported that 3,000 residents remained without power. By Tuesday afternoon that number had been decreased to 500. The city expects to restore power to all locations by Thursday.

Late Monday night, as the storm approached Albany, Ga., it was downgraded to a tropical depression and tropical storm warnings were lifted for Florida’s Gulf Coast.

According to the National Weather Service, Frances, though now just a depression, is expected to dump between six to 10 inches of rain on much of the Southeastern United States. The storm is likely to weaken over the next few days as it remains over land.

Despite the diminishing threat of inclement weather as Frances moved away from the North Florida area, many local businesses remained closed Tuesday, as a precaution.

FAMU, Florida State University, Tallahassee Community College and Keiser College all suspended classes Tuesday as did Leon County Public Schools. Public schools in Gadsden, Jefferson, Franklin, Liberty and Wakulla counties and all state offices in Leon County were also closed Tuesday.

FAMU officials posted up-to-date information on the University’s Web site informing students, faculty and staff of Tuesday’s closings, as well as safety precautions to follow during the wrath of Frances. According to the site, the University decided to suspend classes after an early morning meeting. Officials said Tallahassee would likely see heavy rain and thunderstorms through Tuesday, but skies remained clear for most of the day.

Tia Wright, a freshman pharmacy student who lives in McGuinn Hall, said she was informed of the school’s closing by her resident assistant. She was also informed that the cafeteria would not be open regular hours on Monday and Tuesday.

Students on the University’s traditional meal plan were served brunch on Monday from 11 a.m. to noon and were given a bag lunch consisting of two sandwiches, a piece of fruit and a bottle of water for both lunch and dinner, Wright said.

Tuesday, the cafeteria served brunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Though the non-traditional hours of the cafeteria may have inconvenienced some on-campus residents, Wright said she and her roommate weren’t bothered much.

“I usually just go (to the cafeteria) so the meal plan isn’t wasted,” Wright said, adding that she usually just eats in her dorm room.

Though Frances has now moved out of the area, Florida residents are bracing for yet another dangerous storm. Ivan, a category three hurricane, is currently battering the Caribbean Islands with maximum sustained winds near 115 mph and is expected to strengthen over the next few days.

contact elizabeth broadway at thefamuaneditor@hotmail.com.