STORM UPDATE 7/11/12 4:30 PM

The latest update on recovery efforts from the flooding created by Tropical Storm Debby last week, includes information that the Suwannee River dropped below flood stage on Tuesday afternoon and now measures 75.38 feet as of this morning. Flood stage is 77 feet and the river reached a peak of more than 85 feet last week in the immediate aftermath of the storm. The Santa Fe River is also receding and was measured at 24.79 feet at Fort White today. Flood stage at Fort White is 24 feet. At Three Rivers Estates, the Santa Fe measured 19.33 feet and has a flood stage of 19 feet in that area.

The Columbia County Citizen’s Information Center (CID) has reduced its hours to 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. You can contact the CIC at 719-7530. You can call to report any new sink holes you find, general questions about recovery efforts and other non-emergency issues.

The emergency shelter at Richardson Middle School for residents displaced by the flooding has now been closed. In terms of county parks, Falling Creek Park has now reopened. The Alligator Lake Recreation Park and Rum Island Park near Fort White continue to be closed until flood waters recede more and repairs are made to the facilities.

Residents are reminded that FEMA has opened this week a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) at Suite 145 in the Westfield Square Shopping Center. The office is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., seven days a week. You are urged to pre-register with FEMA if you are planning to file an application for grants, loans or low interest loans from the Small Business Administration. You can contact FEMA by calling 1-800-621-FEMA or on the web at www.disasterassistance.gov. Residents with smart phones can make contact with the site at m.fema.gov. If you have already registered with FEMA and filed your assistance application, please be reminded you will have an appointment with a FEMA inspector to assess the amount of damages. If the inspector is unable to get into your home because of flood waters remaining high, you’ll have to contact FEMA again and arrange for a new inspection once flood waters have receded enough to allow for full access to your home or property.

A Human Services Disaster Recovery Center is also open at Suite 105 in the Westfield Square Shopping Center, 426 SW Commerce Drive. Red Cross, Catholic Charities, United Way, Meridian Health Care, Florida Crown and Department of Children and Family Services are among the various agencies that can provide assistance to local residents affected by the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Debby last week. The Human Services DRC will also be open from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., seven days a week.

The Columbia County Public Works Department has discontinued providing sand bags at this time. Some residents have inquired about what to do with sand bags that previously obtained to help avoid flooding. Personnel with Public Works remind residents that we are still very early in the 2012 Hurricane Season and it may be a good idea to retain the sandbags for use later in the year if, conditions warrant. If you are intent on getting rid of the sandbags, a method to consider is cutting the bags open and spreading the sand around your property and then putting the empty bag in your garbage.

Deputies from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, augment by law enforcement officers from Fish & Wildlife Commission, Florida Department of Agriculture and Florida Highway Patrol remain on a heightened level of patrolling areas affected by the flooding. Motorists are reminded to avoid driving into roads still covered by water as the flooding has likely caused erosion of the roadways and a number of sink holes have been reported in Columbia County.

Mosquito spraying continues on a nightly basis, seven days a week. County officials received a new supply of pellets to treat standing water and kill mosquito larvae and area locations with standing water are being treated. Residents are urged to patrol around your house and property and spill on theground any water accumulated that could become a place for mosquitoes to breed. Pellets to kill larvae in standing water is not available to the public at the Health Department, but residents can call the agency at 758-1058 to report locations where personnel from the county can come and treat the area with the chemical. Although Columbia County has requested assistance from the Florida Department of Agriculture to allow for aerial spraying for mosquitoes, approval has not yet been given.

The Columbia County Health Department has extended its days of operation for testing potentially contaminated well water. Previously, the testing was done only Monday through Thursday, but now has become a Monday – Friday activity.