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Evacuees take shelter from hurricane at Torreya State Park

by Teresa Eubanks, Journal Editor

Some Florida residents fleeing Hurricane Irma last week found a unique place to seek shelter - Torreya State Park.

The Liberty County park was one of several in the panhandle offering free camping sites for storm evacuees who started coming in Friday, Sept. 8.

After the park’s 29 campground sites, along with a cabin and yurt, were taken that weekend,  other evacuees spent the night in their cars inside the state park.  Some made camp in the picnic area.

The primitive campsites, located a mile into the woods,  were closed to ensure everyone could be accounted for, according to Park Manager Aaron Miller.  The statewide policy for parks was to honor reservations but not take any more so they could accommodate evacuees.

“We waived all fees,” Miller said, but when the hurricane’s path still was unclear he warned campers it was possible they might have to evacuate the park.

“We told them they all needed a Plan B,” he said, and, by Sunday, it turned out they did.  The park closed that afternoon, Sept. 17, after coming under a tropical storm watch.  “We reopened the following Tuesday morning.”

Evacuees are still arriving, with a family from Bunnell in Flagler County setting up camp on Monday. They told Miller they can’t return to their home until water quality issues there are resolved.

Remarkably, the park never lost power.  “I was worried,” Miller said.  He said he clocked winds at 35 mph from the overlook behind the Gregory House.  “A lot of trees are down and there are plenty of limbs covering our trails,” he said.

Several Strike Teams of park rangers have been sent down south to help with recovery efforts.  Here at home, the staff at Torreya will soon be firing up the chainsaws to clear away the debris while hoping Hurricane Maria, who is currently churning in the Caribbean,  will take another path before making it to U.S. shores.  As of Tuesday, Hurricane Jose was  making its way along the U.S. East Coast.

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Date
September 22nd, 2017

Author
Staff

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