More emergency aid headed to Florida's storm-battered Panhandle from the First Coast on Thursday to help with problems ranging from fire-rescue work to repairing communications knocked out by Hurricane Michael.
Emergency management offices in some areas relied on amateur radio operators relaying information because their own communications systems were offline after the storm, a Nassau County spokeswoman said.
Communications equipment and technical specialists were tapped to restore those systems while a separate 17-person team led by Nassau Emergency Management Director Billy Estep was organized to cover staffing needs at local emergency management offices. A mix of people with law enforcement, firefighting and emergency management backgrounds are being used for the second team, said Martha Oberdorfer, the Nassau spokeswoman.
Separately, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said through Twitter that the city's fire department was sending seven water tankers and seven department members to help recovery efforts in Panama City. Before Michael arrived, Jacksonville had already sent a 47-person search and rescue team plus 11 firefighters to staff four ambulance units and a bus designed to handle mass casualties.
Nassau officials had previously organized two other six-person teams to send to Holmes and Okaloosa counties in response to requests from a statewide coordinating agency.
The extra Panhandle help was sent as Northeast Florida cleaned up limited damage left from winds that lingered Wednesday night and early Thursday.
Site surveys to check for wind damage and evidence of tornadoes were being done Thursday in Clay, Bradford and Alachua counties, as well as Charlton and Douglas counties in Georgia, the National Weather Service reported. The weather service canceled alerts for the Jacksonville area early Thursday, although a small craft advisory remained in effect until evening.
City and county beaches that had been closed in Nassau County reopened Thursday, although red-flag warnings persisted about potentially dangerous currents.
An army of electrical linemen and tree surgeons that massed Wednesday at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center for Duke Energy began traveling west before sunrise Thursday to help restore electricity. Hundreds of linemen remained at the center hours later, however, waiting for instructions.
Crews for Florida Power & Light also gathered at a staging area off U.S. 1 north of Callahan to get directions on their storm response.
Georgia Power reported by the afternoon that about 115,000 of its customers were also without power. The company said there were concentrations of outages around Albany, Americus, Bainbridge, Macon, Valdosta and Vidalia, where Michael snapped electric lines and power poles as it rolled toward the Carolinas.
Relief efforts by First Coast nonprofits geared up after the storm moved on.
The food-aid operation FarmShare allotted two tractor trailers of water from its Jacksonville warehouse to the Panhandle on Thursday and locally-based nonprofit Feeding Northeast Florida was awaiting word from a statewide parent office about where to send help. "The quick answer ... is that we are on standby," the group's president, Frank Castillo, said by email.
A Salvation Army disaster response unit is scheduled to leave downtown Jacksonville for the Panhandle midday Friday.
Times-Union writers Beth Reese Cravey and Matthew Farina contributed to this report.
Steve Patterson: (904) 359-4263