STORM UPDATE 06/26/2012 9:30 PM

Debby has been downgraded to a Tropical Depression at 8:00 p.m. The storm came ashore at approximately 5:00 p.m. this afternoon near the Gulf Coast community of Steinhatchee. The storm appears to be moving northeast at this time with a path that would bring Debby across the southern portion of Columbia County as it heads to southeast Georgia and emerges into the Atlanta Ocean on Thursday or Friday. Top winds in our area are expected to be no more than 20 miles per hour. We are estimated to have received an additional 5 inches of rain today and predictions say we could expect between 4-8 inches of new rain overnight into Wednesday.

The biggest effects in our area from the Tropical Storm are expected to be significant flooding on both the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers. The flooding has already begun on the Suwannee at White Springs. At present, the National Weather Service and Suwannee River Water Management District predict the Suwannee River will rise to above 83.8 feet on Wednesday. Flood stage at White Springs is 77 feet. On the Santa Fe River, it is predicted the river will reach 31 feet on Sunday at Fort White where flood stage is 24 feet. Further downstream, the Santa Fe is expected to crest at 25.7 feet at Three River Estates where the flood stage is 19 feet. There are no mandatory evacuations in place for residents endangered by flooding either on the Suwannee or Santa. However, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department and Emergency Management officials
Are urging residents that will be affected by the flooding to consider moving to higher ground by staying with family or friends during upcoming days when access to homes will be significantly more difficult as flooding expands and makes roads near the rivers difficult or impossible to access by vehicles.

In addition to the flooding at the rivers, another major impact exists with nearly 100 county roads damaged or made impassible by flooding during the past two days. Public works crews have been working around the clock since Monday to repair roads where possible and place barricades on other road to assist residents driving on roads that are damaged or have standing water. In addition, the Columbia County Emergency Management Department activated five damage assessment teams to survey the county and determine the extent of costs for damage for both public and private property. Those crews will continue their work on Wednesday morning.

A public shelter remains open at Richardson Middle School, located one block south of Baya Avenue in Lake City. It is the only public shelter open at this time. In terms of closings, both the Columbia County Courthouse and Annex will be closed Wednesday. City Hall will be open for business and asks that employees who are able to travel to work and get back home safely report for duty. Provisions will be made for employees with potentially dangerous driving issues. Other closures will include Florida Gateway College, Girls Club, Boys Club and Lake City Recreation Center.

The Columbia County Citizen’s Information Center (CIC) remains open around the clock. Residents can make reports of flooding conditions and seek information by calling the CIC at 719-7530. Please restrict calls to 9-1-1 for only true emergency situations.

Columbia County remains under a Flood Warning and a Lake Wind Advisory.