Escambia County leaders are pleading with the public to stay off of the roads as crews work to restore power and respond to emergencies.
“Please, please, please, do not be on the roads if it’s not an emergency, and you don’t have to,” Escambia County Administrator Janice Gilley said Friday morning during a press conference. “We have had a couple of accidents at intersections due to the fact that obviously there are still outages with our traffic signals, and people sometimes just don’t follow the four-way stop rules.”
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said people should only leave their homes to get fuel or food or if it is an emergency.
“If you’re out looking at damage and devastation, you are part of our problem right now,” Morgan said. “Stay at home unless you’re out getting food or gas for your generators and your vehicles. Stay at home. Do not leave unless it is an emergency situation, and in that case, call us. All of our ambulances and those sorts of things are up and running.”
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Morgan said traffic issues from too many people out on the roads to look at damage are delaying the restoration of power and water.
“You are holding up the trucks that are getting out there to do clean up, restore power and do those things to bring our infrastructure back,” Morgan said. “At Pensacola Beach the other day, it got so bad the deputies were frustrated because they couldn’t get the power trucks on the beach to start working on the power lines, which would allow ECUA to do their job.”
A curfew is in effect from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. throughout Escamba County. Commissioner Robert Bender said the curfew is in place for people’s safety, noting how dangerous roads are around the county.
“We still have a lot of trees and power lines across the road,” Bender said. “I just asked Gulf Power, as power comes back on, some of these lines that you may have been driving across, which we tell you not to do, could become live.”
The lack of power has led to only a few gas stations with the ability to sell fuel, causing long lines at the few operating gas stations.
Morgan said both the Pensacola Police Department and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office are becoming the “gas pump police.”
“We’re having people getting there not wanting to get in line or cutting in line,” Morgan said. “Understand something, folks, you’ve got to get in line and queue up.”
Morgan said people have to use common sense and realize that getting gasoline will take several hours.
“You’ve got to kind of take a step back from this and say, ‘Look, my situation is as bad as everybody else’s,'” Morgan said. “Don’t end up making your situation worse by getting arrested at a gas pump because you decided you were going to cut in line to save 15 minutes.”
While there are problems with the recovery, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said he also sees a spirit of generosity in the community with neighbors helping neighbors and companies donating supplies.
“That’s what we continue to want to do, and emulate that,” Robinson said. “And I think what I want to say here is just continue to have patience. We are working through things that we don’t have. I don’t have power. I understand the challenges that you’re going through.”
Morgan added that police are being overwhelmed with calls from people who can’t contact their relatives. He said people should check on their neighbors and make sure they’ve communicated with their families.
“Escambia County, step up to the plate,” Morgan said. “We know what you can do in an emergency situation.”
Jim Little can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 850-208-9827.