Bradford County distributing sandbags ahead of Elsa

Sandbags offered at 3 sites

BRADFORD COUNTY, Fla. – Bradford County is offering free sandbags to its residents in preparation for the potential impacts of Tropical Storm Elsa.

Pre-filled sandbags are being distributed at the Bradford County Public Works site located on West Market Road. The entrance to the yard will be closed to westbound traffic -- coming from U.S. Highway 301. To get to the sandbag distribution site, enter West Market Road from NW State Road 16.

According to Bradford County Emergency Management, there will be a limit of 15 sandbags per vehicle.

Here is the schedule for the site:

  • Tuesday, July 6, from 7 a.m. to TBD.

“We are going be out here as long as we can,” said Sgt. Brad Witt, with the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office. “But, obviously, once these conditions deteriorate, you know, we will eventually have to pull our people in for safety.”

Witt said there were some people who grabbed sandbags on Monday, but he expects there to be a rush Tuesday.

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Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith shared a video of inmates working over the holiday weekend with emergency management and the road department using special equipment to fill the nearly 5,000 bags being made available at the site.

Smith said the goal is to stay ahead of the game with so many low-lying areas in Bradford County.

“The creeks are going to get full. We’re already saturated and we’re already up. So some rain can cause us a lot of trouble,” Smith said. “We’re just trying to get ahead of it and prepare well and give our citizens a feeling of comfort in knowing that they can come and get these and prepare for this instead of waiting until they’re already flooded.”

People who showed up throughout the morning Tuesday said they’ve all been through this before and experienced the flooding firsthand. They’re keeping a close eye on this storm.

“I’m grateful that they can give it to us and take care of it,” Todd Juniper said. “But my big problem is I live in Bradford County off 301 and there have been some drainage issues and neighbor clogged the ditch up on us -- and it takes me almost 100 bags every time it rains.”

In addition, self-serve sites have been set up at Bradford County Fire Rescue Station 40 at 21412 NW S.R. 16 in Heilbronn Springs and Station 90 at 13641 SW County Road 227 in Sampson City. Residents are asked to bring their own shovel if they use those sites.

In an abundance of caution, Bradford County will be conducting pre-filled sandbag distribution operations in preparation...

Posted by Bradford County Emergency Management on Monday, July 5, 2021

Witt said the sandbags can be used throughout hurricane season -- not just for this storm. Sandbags prevent water from getting into your home, garage or anywhere that is susceptible to flooding.

“We wanted to get a jump start on this, the first storm of the season,” Witt said.

After a wet month of June and start of July, Witt said that the county is preparing for flooding, as Elsa could bring wet weather to Northeast Florida.

“Due to our extremely saturated soil conditions from the rain we’ve been having over the past several weeks, we are going to prepare for those as well as any of the other threats that come with severe weather. We are definitely gotta focus on flooding and downed trees,” Witt said. “There are parts of Bradford County that are flood-prone.”

Witt said one of those parts is the Sampson Lake area.

Randy Kilby has lived near Sampson Lake his entire life. He said there’s a creek that flows into the Sante Fe River that floods a lot.

“I’ve seen it flood four or five teams,” Kilby said. “All of the water in Starke flows out here, so it’s going to get bad.”

Kilby said his mother lost her home near Sampson Lake during Hurricane Irma, so now he stays prepared during hurricane season.

“We’re prepared,” he said. “We have plenty of water and a generator.”

Bradford County is offering pre-bagged sandbags on Market Road in preparation for upcoming tropical weather.

Clarence McDonald was picking up sandbags on Tuesday.

“We have four or five different doors at my place that we have locked up before the rain comes. I hope it doesn’t get as bad as what they’re talking about,” McDonald said. “There’s a lot of low-lying areas around here and it floods real bad around this part of town of Bradford County. So the best thing to do is just be safe and hopefully protect your homes and stuff.”

Fellow Bradford County resident Donald Portis said the county’s sandbag program has saved his home before.

“When Irma came through, it crest about a quarter inch from going through my back porch. But I was able to stop that because I had the sandbags in place, so everything worked out fine,” Portis said.

About the Authors:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.