Governor tours Black Creek flooding as recovery begins

Worst of creek's flooding expected to be in past

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. - After a boat tour Wednesday to see hundreds of homes along Black Creek that were inundated with water, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called the damage "heartbreaking."

Storm surge, combined with up to 20 inches of rain from the hurricane, brought the river to 28.5 feet before dawn Tuesday -- a crest that breaks a record set in 1919.

"You just feel sorry for people. No one plans for a disaster and no one anticipated the water would come up like this, and it came up fast," Scott said. "Fortunately, as far as we know right now, everyone was rescued -- which is a positive. But your heart goes out to them because water came into their house. Most people don't have extra money for a disaster, so it's going to impact them."

Scott promised he would make sure the residents would get the federal assistance they need. He said the state was also pushing to get electricity restored and more fuel.

"I know everybody's working. We've had over 30,000 vehicles that have come into the state to help get power back on, but we've got to get our power back. I'm following the numbers. I've talked to utility companies. I talked to quite a few of the utility companies this morning to make sure that everybody gets their power back as fast as possible."

Scott said he also was monitoring the rising Sante Fe River, which could spill over the Interstate 75 bridge in northern Alachua County, shutting down the flow of evacuees returning to South Florida and relief supplies headed into the state.

Scott said he was headed next to the Keys, which, along with Fort Myers and greater Jacksonville, experienced the most damage from Hurricane Irma.

Rescues and recovery

Clay County Fire and Rescue and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, with the help of the Florida National Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Florida Game and Fish Commission rescued 173 people and 49 pets in less than 12 hours Monday.

While Black Creek is prone to flooding, people who have lived here all their lives said they've never seen anything even come close to being this bad.

Daniels has asked recreational boaters to stay off Black Creek and the St. Johns River because of treacherous waters and submerged hazards. Many boat ramps will be closed throughout the week and Daniels is asking sightseers to stay away while recovery efforts continue.

He said it's heartbreaking and wants the people affected in Clay County to know he's on their side -- and will make sure they get the federal assistance they need. This is the Main Street dock in Middleburg where the governor took off from. You can see picnic tables still underwater here -- but the water has already gone down so much since yesterday.

The water is also continuing to recede in some areas, although there are still homes, cars and street signs that remain underwater. It will take months for these hundreds of families to ever get back to normal.

Scott said the worst areas of flooding in the state are the Keys, Fort Meyers and right here in northeast Florida. He says he's working to make sure that the people affected here will get all the federal assistance they need, but that it will take time.

Scott said that he has been in touch with President Trump and Vice President Pence and said that the federal government needs to do their job to help with Irma relief. He said right now, a major priority is getting power back on and getting more fuel to the state. 

"I'm thankful that we didn't lose any lives but now it's going to be a lot of work to rebuild their lives," Scott said.

Fortunately, Black Creek has already receded a significant amount and they expect that it will be back to normal in the next few days. There will be more work to be done once the creek returns to normal level.

If people want to help with the recovery, volunteers can visit claycountygov.com.

 

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