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Crews distribute sandbags in Alachua County; UF, Santa Fe College to close campuses

Alachua County residents wait hours for sandbags
Alachua County residents wait hours for sandbags

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – Emergency management crews in Alachua County worked Tuesday to distribute sandbags as residents braced for Elsa.

At Wayside Park on U.S. 441, dozens of vehicles lined up, with many people waiting for hours to get their share of sandbags.

Alachua County resident Lonnie Hill waited about two hours.

“That wasn’t bad,” Hill said.

Alachua County Regina Williams also waited a couple of hours.

“To get sandbags to protect my stuff,” Williams said. “Water’s coming on my back porch.”

Lyndon Boykins, with Alachua County Emergency Management, said they were working quickly to keep up with demand.

“It’s been hard, man. We been working hard at it. All the guys working together out here as a team, just trying to make the best of it,” Boykins said.

Boykins estimated filling more than 1,000 sandbags between Monday and Tuesday.

The county expects forceful winds as early as Tuesday evening and into Wednesday morning. Residents are warned to clear their yards of anything that could get swept up by strong winds, including debris from trees and also things like yard decor, trampolines, plants and other backyard staples. Emergency officials also urge people who live in flood-prone areas to consider staying with friends or family or at a hotel.

Residents who News4Jax spoke with on Tuesday said they’ve seen this kind of storm before and they’re not worried but still want to be prepared.

“Everybody needs to be prepared when a storm coming in,” Hill said.

Williams said: “In Gainesville, we don’t get hit by the storm as much, but we be prepared and then it’s like we have a lot of extras after the storm.”

THE LATEST: Elsa | WHAT TO EXPECT: Forecasting Elsa’s impact on Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia | TRACKING THE TROPICS: Interactive map

Sandbags in High Springs

Sandbags were also available in High Springs ahead of Elsa.

The High Springs Fire Department said sandbags were offered from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at Memorial Park, located at 17380 NW U.S. Highway 441.

The sandbags were self-serve.

The Fire Department said the limit was 10 bags per household.

UF, Santa Fe College to close campuses

The University of Florida and Santa Fe College will close their campuses Wednesday as Alachua County feels the effects of Elsa.

UF will cancel classes, cease all non-essential campus operations and cancel all special events on Wednesday. UF will resume normal operations Thursday.

Santa Fe College closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday with no classes beginning after 6 p.m. The college will remain closed Wednesday for the entire day.

Unless expressly authorized, students, faculty and staff may not come to the Northwest Campus or any of the SF centers until the college reopens.

The college anticipates being able to reopen Thursday for regular work and class schedules unless there are conditions that prohibit a safe return.

City of Gainesville announces closures

The city of Gainesville on Tuesday declared a local state of emergency due to Elsa.

The city expects to open its Emergency Operations Center later Tuesday to officially coordinate all preparedness, response and recovery actions of its departments to keep all neighbors safe. The public will be notified if and when emergency shelters open.

All city parks closed at 5 p.m. Wednesday and will remain closed Wednesday. All city pools, as well as Ironwood Golf Course, closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday and remain closed Wednesday.

City of Gainesville offices will be closed Wednesday. Gainesville Regional Utilities’ lobby and drive-through will be closed Wednesday. Nature and Recreation Summer Camps will be canceled Wednesday.

Alachua County, University of Florida, Santa Fe College and Alachua County Public Schools offices are closed, and classes will be canceled Wednesday.

Regional Transit System (RTS) will operate on reduced service Wednesday. RTS service will be suspended when area winds reach 35 mph. Visit www.go-rts.com for additional details.

Residential trash pickup will be delayed by one day.

Call 352-334-2871 to report power outages and 352-334-2550 to report natural gas emergencies.

Report any storm-related issues such as flooding and blocked streets online at www.myGNV.org or use the myGNV mobile app available for download at www.myGNV.org. To report issues by phone, call 352-334-5070.


About the Authors:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.