Columbia County distributes sandbags, opens shelters ahead of Elsa

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – Columbia County offered sandbags and opened shelters on Tuesday, as Elsa is forecast to make its way through North Florida.

The county distributed sandbags from noon until 9 p.m. Tuesday at the following locations:

  • Columbia County Public Works at 607 NW Quinten St., Lake City, FL 32055
  • Fort White Community Center at 17579 State Road 47, Fort White, FL 32038

There was a limit of 15 bags per vehicle.

According to Columbia County Emergency Management, elderly assistance was available at each location.

Crews could be seen working to help people fill up sandbags and load them into their trunks at Columbia County Public Works on Tuesday. Neville Taylor, with Columbia County Public Works, shared what motivates him to work through the heat and the rain.

”Helping people,” he said. “We do this every year. I’ve been doing this for the last seven.”

Linda Harris and her daughter, Susan Pruss, both live in Columbia County. They stopped by the sandbag distribution site at Columbia County Public Works site on Tuesday. They said they’re thankful for the help because Harris recently got out of the hospital and is on oxygen.

“I sure could use them at my place. It wants to flood my driveway every time, so thank God we have some people out here who are going to help us,” Harris said.

Pruss said: “For mom, it’s hard for her to get out and do things, so everyone pulls together in the family -- we all help.”

The county told News4Jax that several thousand sandbags were handed out to hundreds of people on Tuesday. It’s something Taylor is proud of.

“Getting a chance to really help people. That’s what it’s really about. I mean, you help somebody, and they tell you thank you -- that feels good,” he said.

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Three shelters opened at 8 p.m. Tuesday and will remain open until 6 p.m. Wednesday at the following locations:

  • Westside Community Center at 431 SW Birley Avenune, Lake City, FL 32024
  • Fort White Community Center at 17579 State Road 47, Fort White, FL 32038
  • Winfield Community Center at 1324 NW Winfield St., Lake City, FL 32055

According to Emergency Management, people with special needs will have power supply for medical devices at the shelters. Emergency Management said no food or beverages will be provided at the shelters, so people will have to bring their own. The county said people will also have to bring their own sheets and blankets, but there are cots for people to sleep.

“It is a safe place for people to go,” said Columbia County Public Information Officer Paula Vann.

Animals will not be allowed at the shelters, according to the county.

Columbia County’s Citizens Information Center has opened. Residents can call 386-719-7530 for Elsa-related information.

Garbage pickup will commence when storm winds are below 30 mph. If garbage is not picked up Wednesday, it will be picked up on Thursday.

Normal county office operations have been suspended due to Elsa. County employees are serving in their respective dual roles at shelter operations, emergency center operations, public works and damage assessment. Office buildings are closed Wednesday. The following government offices are also closed Wednesday: Columbia County Courts, Columbia County Tax Collector, Columbia County Property Appraiser and Columbia County Supervisor of Elections.

About the Authors:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.