Bridges, roads latest victims of Debby

Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Hamilton counties have roads, bridges undermined

BRYCEVILLE, Fla. - Two bridges and several roads are closed -- and will be for some time -- after becoming victims of rushing water from the 20+ inches of rain from Tropical Storm Debby.

County Road 218 about five miles west of Blanding Boulevard in Clay County was undermined in two places about one mile apart. Access to and from Middleburg was cut off, and residents who live between the two bridge faults could not get out of their homes, so officials were developing a plan to get them out.

"A lot of these people are very concerned," said Capt. Bernita Bush, of Clay County Emergency Management. "They have water in their homes or close to their homes and they definitely want to get out."

There are about 400 homes on the mile-long stretch in between the two road collapses on County Road 218.

"I live right on the other side of this, and you can't come from either way. It's washed out on both bridges," resident Charles Dlong said. "They wouldn't let me come home last night. I had to stay at (Middleburg High School) with Red Cross."

IMAGES: Bridges, roads washed away by Debby

Engineers are getting to work on repairs to hopefully have County Road 218 open again in two weeks.

"It's going to take a complete rebuild of this crossing," said Jeff Beck, director of engineering and public works in Clay County. "Right now we're soliciting contractors."

Nassau County bridge collapses

About 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, a resident reported that a bridge on U.S. Highway 301 just north of the Duval-Nassau county line looked like it was sinking.

Minutes later, deputies and transportation officials confirmed the bridge near Otis Road in Bryceville had collapsed and piece of it washed away.

The bridge, built in 1940, is over Brandy Branch Creek, a tributary to the St. Marys River, which reached a historic flood crest due to torrential rainfall from the slow-moving storm that passed off the coast overnight.

"We noticed these bridges were in getting bad shape that last time they paved this road," said resident Stephen Thomas. "You could feel it when you go across them."

Deputies from Jacksonville and Nassau County are directing traffic around the outage while transportation officials discuss their options to repair or replace the span.

It will be at least a week before a temporary bridge can be installed. As soon as Thursday, officials said they hope to have the temporary bridge's foundation put in.

The alternate route for U.S. 301 traffic is taking Otis Road to County Road 121 to U.S. 90 and back to 301.

"I sure hate it 'cause it's going to put so many people in a bad place there, and it costs more money for gasoline for people to go from here to there, and it really bothers me," one driver said.

Drivers said the detour will in some cases double their drive times and will likely have more traffic.

"It's going to turn 30 minutes into an hour. Yep, it's going to be bad," driver Danny Griffin said.

DOT is expanding that part of U.S. 301, so officials said they were planning to replace the old bridge eventually.

Baker County bridge out

A small bridge on County Road 127 just outside Sanderson collapsed overnight. 

Residents who use the bridge every day walked to it Wednesday morning for a look or to take pictures. They said the creek under the span, one side of which dropped several feet, was rushing like a white-water river after Debby's heavy rain.

"I just buckled, kind of like caved in," said Danielle Sanders. "I was riding around all day on that bridge yesterday."

It was just one more problem for Baker County, which had several road inundated by the rising St. Marys River and ordered mandatory evacuations late Tuesday.

Deputies and rescue personnel had to remove several residents by boat who did not get out before the river road to near historic flood levels.

Smaller roads closed by erosion

Washouts also also took part of 118th Street near Firestone Road in Jacksonville, a highway in Hamilton County and some private roads around Black Creek in Clay County.

Pastor James Turner didn't know his church was flooded until he saw pictures on and WJXT4 The Local Station's Facebook page.

Water from McGirts Creek on the Westside made its way inside.

"Right now it's really soggy," Turner said of the damage to his church. "The water was 8 inches up, past the baseboard and everything. Earl, our maintenance guy, put a lot of stuff up when it looked like it was going to flood. The dry wall was ruined."

Turner said he wouldn't have service Wednesday night and will have to see what the church can do about Sunday.

Right next to the church is a used car lot, where the owners received a call Tuesday night that their cars were in danger.

"The water come in very fast, and we were scared they would push them to the fence over there," owner Lilianna Barde said. "We pushed them outside."

The owners were checking out the cars that were covered with water, but they believe they were able to save most of them.

County and state emergency officials urge people to report damage as they are putting together requests for federal assistance.

"Damage assessments is the big issue right now we need to know about businesses that were flooded, homes that were flooded, any property damage that occurred," Jacksonville Fire-Rescue Chief Marty Senterfitt said Wednesday morning. "If people could call 904-630-CITY, that would be tremendously helpful."

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