By Gabe Tynes and Dale Liesch
For the second time in six weeks, residents of Mobile and Baldwin counties awoke to survey damage from a hurricane. Although Hurricane Zeta made landfall Wednesday evening as a strong category 2 storm nearly 100 miles away in Cocodrie, Louisiana, South Alabama experienced wind gusts similar to Hurricane Sally when it made landfall in Gulf Shores Sept. 17.
However, Zeta moved through the area much faster, with far less rain and sustained high winds. Still, preliminary damage reports indicate many trees were knocked down again and more than 100,000 people were without power at the peak of the storm. But recovery has already begun.
Riviera Utilities, which serves electric customers along the Eastern Shore and south toward Foley, reported 15,000 customers without power last night, but fewer than 2,000 this morning. Baldwin EMC, which serves more rural areas of the county, reported 26,147 meters without power this morning, nearly half of which were south of U.S. Route 98. Nearly 100,000 meters serviced by Alabama Power were offline in the two-county area during the storm, an update was not immediately available this morning.
Mobile County reported “numerous trees and power lines down as a result of the storm. All counties offices would remain closed Thursday, spokeswoman Dena Pollard announced in a statement, except for the Mobile County absentee voting office, which will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the last day to apply for absentee ballots before the Nov. 3 election.
After advising tourists again to leave the area ahead of the storm, the city of Gulf Shore reported “minimal damage” this morning and said all municipal offices would be open by noon. Similarly, the city of Orange Beach said it recorded “no major incidents or reports of damage,” and while sand was displaced at the beach, all the major roads were clear and it was “business as usual” at city facilities this morning.
Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood reported his city survived “without significant damage,” and all roads were clear and traffic lights functioning this morning. In Dauphin Island, Mayor Jeff Collier reported more damage — “huge” amounts of sand covering roads, power poles down, streets flooded and “most of the island remains without power.”
Citronelle Mayor Jason Stringer took to Facebook last night to report the city sustained “major damage” and injuries from the storm. Schools in Mobile and Baldwin counties remain closed today, and news about reopenings is expected later this afternoon.
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