STORM UPDATE 06/30/2012 4:00 PM

We remind everyone that we are expecting extremely hot and humid weather conditions for today, continuing through the July 4th holiday. According to the National Weather Service. temperatures will again hover around the 100-degree mark with a heat index approaching 110. Dehydration is a dangerous medical situation that residents are warned to pay close attention to avoiding. Plenty of water, staying in the shade as much as possible and avoiding drinking alcoholic beverages and being in the sun are just a few tips to avoid heat related health issues that are both dangerous and potentially deadly. The weather service warns
that “pop-up” storms, some of which could  be severe, are possible over the next four days. Already today, radar picked-up a brief thunderstorm at the I-10 and I-75 interchange. With our soil already saturated from the storm earlier this week, even an inch of new rain could generate a disproportional impact on roads
and already flooded areas.

The Suwannee River continues to measure a downward trend in terms  of flood levels. At White Springs the river was measured at 83.97 feet this morning, down from 84.7 on Friday.  The Suwannee River is predicted to move back into its banks on Wednesday, July 4 at the flood stage at 77 feet. On the Santa Fe River, the measurement this morning was 31.87 feet with a crest of 32.8 expected for Sunday. The flood stage is 24 feet. Downriver at Three Rivers Estates, the Santa Fe was at 21.24 feet this morning with a an expected crest on Monday at 22.4 feet. Flood stage is 19 feet.

The Columbia County Landfill is fully operational again and is open today from 7:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., closed Sunday and open next week daily from 7:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. According to personnel at the  landfill, a significant amount of flood damaged equipment, furniture and other debris is being brought in for disposal. In addition, mosquito spraying efforts are underway in areas with no flood waters.  Pellets
for treating flood waters for mosquitoes, both adult and larvae, are being obtained and Columbia County plans an aggressive campaign to attack a challenge that will get even more serious in the days ahead. Among tips to reduce mosquito issues are to try and not be outdoors in the early morning and at dusk in the evening. Wear light colored clothing is another thing that will help. Spraying around the county will be conducted all week from 6:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. Questions about the landfill and mosquito issues can be answered by calling 752-6050.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office continues to have extra personnel on  duty to deal with a wide array of
issues, including extra patrols in flooded areas to discourage vandalism and looting, evacuation assists, traffic control on damaged roads and bridges and much more. They are being assisted with personnel and boats from the Florida Freshwater and Wildlife Game Commission. Also providing additional law enforcement officers are the  Department of Agriculture and Florida Highway Patrol. Sheriff Mark Hunter reported that officers had made more than 23 evacuation assists during the past 36 hours.

The Public Works Department continues work on an  around the clock basis identifying and repairing roads and bridges in the county. Director Kevin Kirby reported the agency has used more than 4,000 tons of materials such as dirt, milling and concrete fill materials  this week on repairs. He also reminded residents that in large part the repairs and re-opening of some dirt and asphalt roads represents a “patch” at this time
and permanent repairs can’t be made until the flood waters recede and soil becomes less saturated. There are still almost 100 roads that are damaged and closed in Columbia County. Inspections on bridges and  on box culverts remains a key challenge that won’t be able to fully accomplish until flooding goes away.
In addition, more than 8,500 sand bags have been distributed to residents this week. It was also noted that motorists should remain cautious because roadways could collapse or fall apart since some damage remains not visible to  the eye and could develop as flood waters go down. Several sinkholes have been reported in the county with a  new one today near the intersection of King Road and Dyal Road.

The Citizen’s Information Center remains open and is expected to remain open around the clock throughout the week. Information on the status of road closures and other questions can be obtained by calling 719-7530.

A public evacuation shelter remains open at Richardson Middle School, located one block south of Baya
Avenue. In addition to sheltering, residents displaced by the flooding can go to the center for a meal or to shower. The shelter is being manned by personnel from the American Red Cross.

A variety of efforts are being utilized by local officials, including the creation of a Facebook page “Columbia
County Flood Relief.” Columbia County also is operating a radio station to provide emergency information at 530 AM on the radio dial. The station is not available everywhere in the county,  but does have a signal on the 10-watt station that reaches listeners within a 10-15 mile radius of the transmitter
located at the Columbia County Combined Communications Center. A website for Newman Media entitled “North Florida Now” and for the Lake City Reporter also are posting updates, as are on-line  media outlets such as the Lake City Journal and Columbia County Observer.