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Tallahassee Scrambles To Clean Up After Kate

November 25, 1985

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Gov. Bob Graham donned an orange hard hat, grabbed a chain saw and joined work crews Sunday to clear debris strewn by Hurricane Kate, which left the city looking ″like a battlefield.″

A state of emergency, meanwhile, remained in effect in 19 Florida counties hit by Kate, the first November hurricane in 50 years to make U.S. landfall and the first to swirl through landlocked areas of the Panhandle.

Wind-toppled trees resting on power lines in the densely wooded state capital of 105,000 residents remained the biggest problem left by Thursday’s storm, officials said.

″I’m working with the streets department ... so we can clear the way for them to restore power,″ said Graham, who reported to work at 11 a.m.

″It might be after Thanksgiving for power to be restored to everyone. As of last night, only 25 percent had power in Tallahassee,″ Graham said. ″The first objective was cleaning main thoroughfares, now we’re working on residential areas.″

About 10 percent of city residents are without telephone service, said Jill Chamberlin, a Graham press aide. Crews are working non-stop to restore power, she said.

″This town looks like a battlefield,″ said real estate broker Don Wesolowski. ″The real story is the way the whole town is pulling together to help each other.″

A 7 p.m. curfew imposed to curb looting after the storm was lifted Saturday.

Elsewhere, residents of Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties returned Saturday to homes evacuated before Kate thundered ashore. They were the last of about 100,000 people in emergency shelters.

Worst hit were Gulf and Franklin counties, where people were without water and electricity in many areas, Jon Peck, a spokesman for the Division of Emergency Management, said Sunday.

″Some of the worst damage was in Apalachicola, Eastpoint and Port St. Joe, and these are areas where the people had already been victimized by Hurricane Elena,″ Ms. Chamberlin said.

Those hit by the other hurricanes said Kate was the worst. September’s Hurricane Elena churned up the Apalachicola Bay, burying shellfish that are important to the area’s economy. The state spent about $150,000 to save the $6.5 million oyster crop that comprises nearly 10 percent of the nation’s supply.

Officials say they fear Kate has buried the infant oyster crop. Divers will assess the damage within two weeks.

In Georgia, about 75 homes remained without electricity Sunday in the wake of the hurricane. About 20,000 Georgia Power customers lost power Thursday night.

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