Hurricane Michael left more than 90 percent of Tallahasseeans without power on Thursday, and city officials are not yet telling people when power might be restored.
Mayor Andrew Gillum, who has been visiting linemen and inspecting damage across the capital city Thursday, said the storm was worse than Hurricane Hermine in 2016. Gillum, the Democratic nominee for Florida governor, has been criticized by his Republican opponent for how Tallahassee recovered from that storm.
But Gillum said Thursday he was expecting much worse. Wind gusts up to 71 mph knocked down trees and power lines, but no serious injuries had been reported by Thursday afternoon.
"I honestly thought we were going to be telling people it was going to be weeks without restoration," Gillum told the Times/Herald. "I'm thanking God for where we are today."
During a Facebook Live on Thursday morning, Gillum urged patience, telling the audience on his personal Facebook account that Wednesday's storm wreaked more havoc in Tallahassee than Hermine did two years ago.
"Our community has been significantly impacted," Gillum said.
Hermine caused 75,000 utility customers to lose power, Gillum said. Today, there were 110,000 without power, along with a sewer system that failed. Nearly 90 percent of the city's sewer pumps lost power and about 150,000 gallons of sewage spilled from one of the pumping stations, according to the city.
"We're working today with crews from all over the state and across the country," Gillum said on Facebook. "I know it will take a little bit of time, but I'm asking you to look at this as a glass half full situation. It will require some patience as we work through the recovery process."
Gillum has spent the morning checking out the damage across the city, meeting with utilities crews and giving interviews to local and national media. He spoke to Gov. Rick Scott in the morning and was scheduled to brief President Donald Trump's Homeland Security Advisor Doug Fears on the city's damage.
As he watched a crew of linemen from Kissimmee replace a power pole that had snapped in half on Springhill Road, Gillum told the Times/Herald that a crew from Jacksonville he met had brought up negative ads airing against Gillum.
Gillum said the workers, who helped after Hermine, were angry about the ads.
"They were like, 'We were here. We were working our butts off,'" Gillum said. "Those guys are proud. And they should be proud."
The Gillum campaign on Thursday issued a cease-and-desist letter to TV stations to stop airing the ad by the Republican Party of Florida.
City Manager Reese Goad agreed that the damage from Michael was worse than Hermine. He said 60 percent of the large Transmission networks critical to supplying power to the city have been knocked out. Hermine did not cause damage that extensive, Goad said.