Camden County flooding prompts state of emergency

KINGSLAND, Ga. - Camden County officials declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon due to the potential of extreme flooding of the St. Marys River.

The river is at historic levels as the torrential rainfall from Tropical Storm Debby earlier in the week makes its way down river.

Flooding along its banks has already affected neighboring Charlton County on the eastern edge of the Okefenokee Swamp and residents in Baker and Nassau counties on the Florida side of the river.

Areas that do not normally flood along the St. Marys River will flood anywhere along the length of the river.

Extreme flooding may occur at Flea Hill and Kings Ferry within the next 24 to 36 hours. Overland flooding will extend to and possibly connect with the Satilla River to the North along and West of the State Road 110 near the intersection of Highway 110 and Highway 40 near the Camden-Charlton county line.

Flood waters could threaten an estimated 80 or more homes in coastal Camden County, said Mark Crews, emergency management director for the county. No evacuation orders were issued, but Crews said residents were being urged to start getting ready.

"We're telling them to take precautionary actions now, like securing things that will float away and putting things higher off the floor," Crews said. "I have a shelter ready if needed. I'm preparing for the worst."

Sand bags are available at the County Facilities Management office at 1144 Godley Avenue in Woodbine.

Crews said he's not sure how deep the flood waters could get. The last time the river flooded, in April 2009, about 40 homes took on as much as a foot of water, he said. The river widens significantly when it reaches two of Camden County's population centers -- the cities of Folkston and St. Marys. Crews said he's confident the river could hold the storm waters once they reach that point.

Charlton County official said it could be days before the flooding St. Marys River drops beneath the Georgia 121 bridge.  Charlton County Commissioner Chairman John Meyer said that there also may be damage to the highway.

"I'm hoping there won't be any damage to the roads, Meyer said.

The National Weather Service says the St. Marys River crest at 24.4 feet -- 12 feet above flood stage -- at the Georgia 121 bridge.  It had fallen 2 inches by Friday afternoon at Macclenny, but was still rising down river.

On Friday, Georgia Department of Transportation closed the State Road 2 Bridge -- which straddles the Florida-Georgia boarder at at St. George -- was closed on Friday.

Officials are trying to persuade the remaining residents of flooded homes in the Georgia Bend area to leave as the river is expected to stay at a record level through Thursday. But many are vowing to stay put.

Meyer said the county has opened a shelter at New Life Baptist Church in St. George, but no one has used it yet.

Meyer noted that some encouraging news came from County Commissioner Mitchell Crawford, who said the river had appeared to have receded about 1 1/2 inches near his house up Georgia 185.

Meyer also said there were a number of creeks and drainage ditches that feed the St. Marys between Crawford's residence and the 121 bridge.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources had gone door-to-door by boat to about 40 homes in the area. Because of the flooding, power has been cut off to the area. About 47 dirt roads in the area are impassable or barely passable.

Closely monitor the situation with a heightened level of urgency and do not wait until the last minute to evacuate. If you find yourself in immediate danger, please dial 911.

The Camden County Health Department is advising that there is a possibility of flood waters contaminating wells. If you suspect that your well is flooded, then drink only bottled water. If you can't get safe water, you can disinfect the water you have by bringing it to a full rolling boils for one minute. If you can't boil the water, add two drops of non-scented household chlorine bleach to each quart of clear water. Add four drops of bleach to each quart of cloudy water. Then, let the water and bleach mixture sit for half an hour before you use it.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.