Falling trees damage Baker County homes

School canceled, county offices closed Friday in Baker, Nassau

BAKER COUNTY, Fla. – A woman in Baker County was injured when a tree fell on her house on Hassie Johns Road overnight as outer bands of Tropical Storm Hermine swept across the area.

The woman was taken to Fraser Memorial Hospital, where the county's special needs shelter was set up. The extent of her injuries wasn't immediately known.

The Hassie Johns Road home wasn't the only house in Baker County to be hit by a falling tree. 

Tia Grissett's home in Macclenny was destroyed when an oak tree fell on it around 4 a.m. Friday. The tree fell straight into the living room where she said her two children typically sleep.

"They sleep right there in the living room, so thank God I had to work last night and my mom keeps my kids for me," Grissett said. 

Grissett said she was in such shock after it happened that she couldn't move. 

Grissett said her landlord will help with repairs, however not everyone may have the same help. The American Red Cross is also helping Grissett, as well as other families as they recover. 

The system, which came onshore in the Gulf Coast as a hurricane about 1:30 a.m. Friday, left a wake of thousands of power outages in Baker and Nassau counties.

Downed trees or power lines were also reported in Baker County on State Road 47 just south of I-75, on I-10 near County Road 250, on Rock Court in Macclenny and on Baya Drive and Lakeview Avenue.

Closures across counties

Baker County and Nassau County schools and government offices remain closed Friday.

Nassau County said that only personnel involved with emergency response are to report for duty. All school-related activities are also canceled.  

Other closures in counties:

  • Lighthouse Christian Academy -- all eight locations in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties -- will be closed Friday.
  • YMCA branches, including the McArthur Family YMCA in Fernandina Beach and the Baker County Family YMCA, will not open until 1 p.m. Friday. All YMCA before and after-school programs are canceled Friday. For more information, please visit FirstCoastYMCA.org.
  • All county buildings in Nassau County will be closed Friday.

Shelter information

A shelter for those with special needs is open at Hilliard Middle/Senior High School and will serve as a shelter for the general public, as well.

Ed Fraser Memorial Hospital on N 3rd Street in Macclenny remains open as a special needs shelter, but Baker County's general public shelter was closed at 8 a.m. Friday.

Anyone who goes to a shelter should bring any essentials they need, including toiletries, bedding, medications, etc., officials said.

For more information or to report storm damage, citizens can call the Nassau County Emergency Operations Center Info Line at 904-548-0900, option 1 or the Baker County Emergency Operations Center at 904-259-6111.

Travel safe

Nassau County officials encouraged residents to be safe as they travel the roadways over the next several days:

  • Check your lights, windshield wipers and tires. Make sure all are in good condition. 
  • Never use your hazard lights while driving; it's illegal. If conditions are bad enough, pull your vehicle over to a safe location so that traffic can continue to flow.
  • Never drive through standing water. It can damage your engine or even carry your vehicle away. Remember, turn around, don't drown.
  • Slow down and leave room. Maintain ample distance behind the vehicle in front of you, avoid hard braking and sharp turns.

Remove standing water

Epidemiologists and emergency managers are reminding residents to quickly remove any standing water after rainfall.

With the Zika virus already in Florida, scientists said getting rid of potential mosquito breeding grounds will help prevent the spread of the insects.

Mosquitoes that spread Zika only need a tablespoon of water to lay eggs, Nassau County officials said.

Florida State University epidemiologist Chris Uejio said that even though all mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water, those that cause Zika are especially fond of man-made containers.

“Literally containers that we have made, like plastic jugs, tires, flower pot saucers -- they will home in on those, partly because they are close to the types of people they like to bite, but they are also great habitats," Uejio said.

Recovering after the storm

The American Red Cross has a couple of tips on how to recover. 

  • Dry out your home to stop mildew growth
  • Restore utilities 
  • Make improvements where damage occurred as soon as possible

Some people have expressed concerns regarding who to trust when getting repairs to your home. 

The Florida Attorney General's office said you can do the following.

  • Be wary of someone who approach you
  • Get at least three estimates
  • Verify that they have a license -- www.myfloridalicense.com
  • Call Attorney General's Office: 866-9-no-scam

About the Authors: