Panhandle courts assess Hurricane Sally damage Sep 18, 2020 By Jim Ash Senior Editor Top Stories Hurricane Sally’s slow march across Northwest Florida left battered buildings and catastrophic flooding, but by September 17 — Constitution Day — state officials were still assessing the impact to court facilities.Court officials had yet to fully survey damage in the hard-hit First Judicial Circuit — which includes Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton counties — said Office of State Courts Administrator spokesman Paul Flemming.“They’re still in the assessment phase in all of their facilities in all of the counties,” Flemming said.A preliminary report by Trial Court Administrator Robin Wright indicated that there was water damage in the judicial suites, likely from broken skylights, in the M. C. Blanchard Judicial Building in Pensacola, Flemming said. Power was out in the facility, which the courts share with other judicial partners, and other parts of the building appear to also have suffered damage, according to the report.Assessments have yet to be made to the Juvenile Justice Center, but flooding is reported in an attached detention center, according to the report. The historic Santa Rosa Courthouse appears to have lost a portion of its roof, according to the report.The First Judicial Circuit website https://www.firstjudicialcircuit.org/ reported that courts would remain closed through Friday, September 18. However, it was not clear if the courts would reopen Monday, September 21, as the website states.News outlets were reporting that downtown Pensacola was under five feet of water, with many streets impassable. The Three Mile Bridge over Escambia Bay was out of service after being struck by a construction barge, according to news reports.Pensacola, a resort town of 53,000 residents, experienced 30 inches of rain in a four-hour period, combined with a six-foot storm surge — the third highest on record — according to the Pensacola News Journal.In one of the few bright spots, court facilities in the 14th Judicial Circuit — which includes Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington counties — reported no damage, Flemming said.The 14th Circuit recently transitioned from Phase 1 to Phase 2 health restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allows limited, in-person activity with protective measures.Court facilities in the 14th Circuit were extensively damaged in October 2018 when Hurricane Michael, the first Category 5 storm on record to strike the Panhandle, leveled entire towns along the “Forgotten Coast.”Check out the Supreme Court’s Hurricane Page for more detailed information on the local courts affected by hurricane.