FEMA evaluates hurricane damage in Putnam County

Residents along Dunns Creek suffer extensive flood damage

By Heather Leigh - Reporter

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. - Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were in Puntam County Wednesday to assess the damage, looking at areas hit hardest and making a report to send back to Gov. Rick Scott. 

As FEMA toured the county, residents continued cleanup efforts along the St. Johns River and Dunns Creek where the damage is extensive. 

A local state of emergency remains in effect for Putnam County.

In area of County Road 13, docks were demolished, boats were stranded in lifts and trees were knocked down, two of which fell on a home. 

Hervey Sorell has been helping clean up his mother's home, but he said the flooding hasn't made it easy. 

"It was like a war zone over here," Sorell said.

Sorell said his mother's mobile home had water up to the steps after Hurricane Matthew caused about a 3-foot surge from Dunns Creek. And while the water began to recede Sunday, it started coming back up.

"Height wise, it's usually a couple feet lower," Sorell said. "There is a dock over there, and you can't even see the dock."

He said they're hoping the area can dry out soon so they can start getting more work done.

"We emptied the fridge and freezer, getting everything nice and clean. We're tearing all the duct work because it's ruined. We're just checking on the water pump and making sure it's working. The AC might work again, but we won't know until we complete the duct work," Sorell said. 

Others were also busy cleaning up on Wednesday. Residents were emptying their homes and discarding furniture and belongings that were ruined by the flooding. 

"It makes you wonder what's going to happen next time around. And the water has been really, really high this year for some reason," Sorell said. 

His mother's home was one of the places FEMA officials stopped Wednesday.

According to FEMA, the damage will be assessed quickly then compiled and handed over to the governor. If he feels the state needs help from the U.S. government, he will put in a request to FEMA, which will eventually hand it over to President Barack Obama for approval.

The magnitude of the damage will ultimately be decided by the president. If a declaration is declared, people will be able to apply for individual assistance with FEMA to determine their eligibility. The funds for certain counties and individuals are not turned on until the area has been declared a disaster. 

Anyone having to stay in a hotel because of damage to their home may be eligible for reimbursement and should save receipts.

FEMA will be in St. Johns, Duval and Nassau counties Thursday and the coming days to assess damage.

To report damage, Putnam County residents can call 386-329-1904 between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

The reach the recorded situation report line, call 386-326-7132.

The Red Cross has deployed food trucks to areas that received the most extensive damages and flooding. Areas that remain flooded and without power will have a truck in their neighborhood distributing food and water. 

Residents are also reminded that waterborne illnesses are caused by microbes or parasites in untreated or contaminated water. All homes that have a private well that was under water from the flooding or lost its prime from being without power needs to be sanitized. 

If you have questions about water, call 386-326-7189.

Debris removal begins

Debris removal began Wednesday in the south end of Putnam County and will move north.

As of Thursday evening, two crews were working to pick up vegetative debris from Hurricane Matthew, emergency officials said.

Putnam County residents are asked to keep different types of debris separated and away from fire hydrants or other obstructions. Debris should be separated into six categories: electronics, large appliances, hazardous waster, vegetative debris and construction debris.

Putnam County crews cannot remove downed trees or other debris from private property. In these situations, homeowners will need to contact a licensed tree removal service. If you can take the debris to the edge of your property to the street/road, a crew will be by to collect.

The Putnam County Landfill encourages residents to place debris on the county right-of-way. If you choose to take it to the landfill, expect long delays. Fees have been waived. 

Boaters asked to slow down

Due to the heavy rains from Hurricane Matthew, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is asking that boaters and operators of personal watercraft operate their vessels with little or no wake in the areas that are currently at or above flood level.

The heavy rains from the hurricane in conjunction with the recent nor’easter winds have caused the water level of the St. Johns River to rise well above flood level and will remain high for the next several days.

As a result, boaters are urged to operate their boats slowly near shorelines to prevent erosion and additional damage to shoreline structures that have already received damage from flooding.

The areas that are most severely impacted by this flooding are Dunns Creek, Cedar Creek, Federal Point, Sportsmans Harbor, and Palm Port.

Boaters are urged to be courteous to the citizens residing in these and other low lying areas of the St. Johns River. Many residents are currently battling to keep flood water out of their homes and boaters causing large wakes can cause additional flooding.


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