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Hurricane Sally Latest Test of Panhandle’s Resiliency

I’m writing to share with you the latest updates from the Panhandle and the impacts of Hurricane Sally on UF/IFAS.

First and most important: Everyone is OK. From all the reports we’re getting, none of our employees or their families have been seriously hurt. Whatever else is damaged we will fix.

Unfortunately, the Panhandle has plenty of practice taking a punch. Whether it’s water, wind or wildfire, pandemic or oil spills, it seems just about every challenge has been thrown at our people in recent years. Hurricane Sally is the latest test.

The disasters differ, but not the response. UF/IFAS employees in areas where movement is possible are visiting farms today to assess damage while their own offices are flooded and without power. Our facilities team is ready to help.

The West Florida Research and Education Center in Jay (farm) and Milton (teaching program) remain closed today, along with many Extension offices, due to flooding, washed-out roads and unsafe travel.  We haven’t been able to assess the damage thoroughly yet, but we anticipate significant damage to research trials in the fields at Jay and may have to bring in generators and other equipment.  Initial results at Jay show a roof leak, the destruction of a hoop house, an irrigation pump under water, trees down and tree debris across the site, but the power is back on.

Sally demolished the seawall along Choctawhatchee Bay at 4-H Camp Timpoochee in Niceville. Two years ago, Hurricane Michael first did significant damage to the seawall, and now Hurricane Sally has finished it off. Some cabins at Camp Timpoochee may have damage as well, and they are now dangerously close to the bay with no seawall or safety measures in place.

The North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy and Marianna may also have flooding damage, but they are open today. A few UF/IFAS Extension offices, which are owned and maintained by their counties, have experienced damage. UF/IFAS Extension Washington County has been flooded.

Cleaning up after Hurricane Sally is likely to take weeks. There will be more coming about how you can help. But for now, safety first. Don’t put yourself in danger. Don’t try to drive in without coordinating it with administration.

Our Panhandle people have proven their resiliency again and again. I appreciate what everyone has been doing this week to prepare and recover from this storm.

What’s most important right now is that our people are safe and that we are here to support each other.