|Debby cleanup gets underway|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Joel Addington|
|Thursday, 05 July 2012 15:31|
Ray Whittle of J.B. Hines Road in Macclenny stood with neighbors the morning of June 28 looking at a roughly five-foot gap in their road where a culvert used to be.
Rushing water from Tropical Storm Debby washed several feet of the road’s surface away, Mr. Whittle said, and eventually pushed the culvert pipe into a wooded area nearby.
The rain started Saturday afternoon and kept coming for the next three days. Power was lost on Sunday and the culvert disappeared on Monday.
Stranded at home with no power, Mr. Whittle lost two refrigerators worth of food despite having a generator on standby.
“We’re usually not without power for that long, so I didn’t have a lot of gas. I siphoned gasoline from the lawn mower just to keep it going as long as I could,” explained Mr. Whittle.
By Thursday, a crew from the county road department, with help from local contractor Chris Rhoden, built J.B. Hines Road back up enough to get heavy equipment to the washed out culvert, a few hundred yards from the nearest passable road, before workers reburied the culvert pipe.
The previous day, Wednesday, the rain ceased and residents led Florida Power & Light personnel through the woods off Woodlawn Road to gain access to a broken power line. The same day, county road crews sprang into action trying to undue, as best they could, the damage done during Tropical Storm Debby.
“The guys have been absolutely fantastic,” County Manager C.J. Thompson said of road department crews who worked nonstop for the first 48 hours of Debby and double shifts through the weekend.
“They’ve put in a lot of thankless hours this past week,” he said.
Mr. Thompson also thanked DuPont for donating a road grader and operator as well as some 500 cubic yards of dirt.
Flooding closed down dozens of roadways last week and seven roads— Cedar Creek Farms, Moccasin Circle, Hamp Register, Water Oak, Richardson, John Williams and Steel Bridge — remained impassable early this week.
Three bridges on CRs 250, 120 and 127 were still closed roughly a week after the storm began drenching the region and causing what National Weather Service hydrologist Joel Lanier termed “an historic flood” on the St. Mary’s River in Macclenny.
“This flood has flows in excess of 35,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) at the Macclenny gauge, or 25 percent higher than the record flood of September 25, 1947 with 28,100 CFS,” wrote Mr. Lanier in an e-mail to emergency management agencies. Only six floods in the last 85 years have exceeded the 26,000 CFS, he said.
Despite the heavy rainfall, local schools fared “really good,” said the school district’s facilities director Denny Wells. Beyond minor roof leaks at the high school that will be repaired, no other damage occurred, he said.
No people were reportedly hurt as a direct result of Tropical Storm Debby in Baker County, but a four-wheeler accident the afternoon of June 26 injured Corey Alan Nielson, 28, and his passenger, Kyle Barron, 16, both of Sanderson.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the 2003 Honda ATV was northbound on Cow Pen Road just north of Fred Harvey Road toward a closed road sign erected due to a washout.
Mr. Nielson drove around the sign, passed a vehicle in the right lane while approaching the washout and drove off the roadway into the water, Trooper R.L. Carmichael’s report shows.
The driver was ejected and landed on the north side of the washout. Mr. Barron was taken to Fraser Hospital and later Shands Hospital in Jacksonville for treatment, the trooper stated.
Mr. Nielson was cited for improper ATV operation.
Preliminary damage assessment teams from state and federal agencies surveyed the worst hit areas of the county over the weekend.
Adam Faircloth, the head of emergency management for the sheriff’s office, said 47 homes were destroyed, 14 suffered major damage, nine experienced minor damage and another 23 were deemed affected, but inhabitable.
He said more structures were likely damaged, but several properties could not be accessed for inspection.
The worst hit areas were along Steel Bridge Road and the Turkey Creek area off George Hodges Rd. southwest of Macclenny.
“We had very significant flooding out there,” he said on July 2. “Today you could see the water line on some of the homes. Some right up to the window sill.”
Mude Lake Road near CR 229 in the south county and areas near CR 23D like Webb Haven Road and Blue Hole Road also saw significant flooding, noted Mr. Faircloth, who worked double shifts for five consecutive days due to the storm.
Debby marked the first activation of the emergency operations center at the sheriff’s complex, which opened its doors in the summer of 2009.
“It really went well,” said Mr. Faircloth. “We identified a couple of things that we hadn’t really though about, but from our standpoint it went about as smooth as we could’ve hoped for given the impact on the county and the massive flooding we’ve had.”
He said the preliminary assessments last weekend showed the county has met the damage threshold to be eligible for disaster relief should the state receive federal assistance.
An account has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank to accept tax-deductible donations to the Families of Baker County Relief Fund. The sheriff’s office will be nominating families to receive assistance. For more information, please call bank manager Amber Dolby at 259-1081.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 05 July 2012 15:34|