Gov. DeSantis declares storm emergency following destructive front

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 12 North Florida counties on Friday after a powerful storm left tens of thousands of residents and businesses without electricity.

The morning storm ripped through Tallahassee, downing trees, ripping roofs off buildings, knocking over a construction crane, and significantly damaging Florida State University’s baseball stadium and the school’s iconic circus tent.

According to a city website, as of shortly before 5 p.m., nearly 80,000 customers of the Tallahassee municipal utility did not have electricity. The Florida Municipal Electric Association said crews were coming from other states to help restore power.

"In response to the extreme storm system that has impacted Tallahassee, causing widespread and extensive damage, the Florida Municipal Electric Association has called on its national mutual aid network to bring in more than 215 personnel from 20 utilities in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina to assist with power restoration efforts in the capital city," Amy Zubaly, the association’s executive director, said in a prepared statement.

The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper, citing information from the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, reported that at least one person was killed in the storm. It said a 47-year-old woman died after a tree fell on her home.

DeSantis declared a state of emergency in Baker, Columbia, Gadsden, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor, and Wakulla counties. DeSantis’ executive order said, in part, that "numerous tornadoes and strong wind gusts caused significant damage to critical state infrastructure, including wind and tree fall damage to residences, businesses, power lines and other infrastructure across North Florida."


Florida State University, Florida A&M University, and Tallahassee Community College closed their campuses on Friday due to the storm.

"The windows were shaking a little bit, and the wind was howling," FSU student Kylie Robinson told The News Service of Florida. "You could hear it. I knew it was close, so I went into my bathroom. I watched the lights slowly start to flicker, and then they finally went out."

The damaged tent was part of FSU’s "Flying High Circus," which its website says has been a tradition for over 75 years.

"This is our home," FSU student Giana Leto said. "At this university, once you’re a Nole, you’re always a Nole. The circus is so unique to this university, so seeing it almost completely destroyed is pretty devastating."

DeSantis’ emergency declaration authorized state Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie to take several steps to help oversee the storm's response and recovery. It also made money from the state Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund available.