St. Marys River floods residents out of homes

Sheriff: Baker County has received 11 inches of rain since Sunday

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Residents in northern Baker County used boats to escape the rising water of the St. Marys River.

MACCLENNY, Fla. - More than 100 hundred people in Baker County had to escape rising waters Tuesday near a boat ramp near State Road 121 North at the St. Marys River on the Florida-Georgia border.

The St. Marys River near Macclenny was measured at 19 feet -- 7 feet above flood stage -- classified a major flood. The waters are expected to crest at 20.8 feet on Wednesday afternoon -- the highest the river has been since 2004.

Residents in more than 40 houses in a neighborhood along the river were trapped by flooding. Sheriff Joey Dobson was warning residents to go back to get valuables at their own risk.

"I'm the furthest one out, which means I'm the last to go under, and I'm going under," said George Rhoden, who was leaving his home.

Rhoden picked up his guitar, stuffed all his valuables in his car and left.

"Everybody behind me is in bad shape," he said. "It's rising 10 inches per hour. We got to go, everybody got to leave."

No one expected the water to rise as fast as it did. People carried dogs to dry land. A pregnant woman wadded through knee-high water. Car after car tried to get to safety.

"It's going to get worse," Rachel Kemp said. "We've had it all the way up to the corner before, years ago, but this is the fastest I've seen it rise in such a short time."

"This is as quick as I've ever seen it come up," Aaron Starling said.

Some men used a boat to get back to their house to rescue their children. Dobson said the county has received 11 inches of rain since Sunday afternoon.

"May 14th we were in a drought, a total drought in Baker County, one of the worst we've had. And now this," Dobson said. "When it comes out of the boat ramp, then we know we're in trouble."

A few minutes down the road, the Red Cross opened a shelter at Macclenny Elementary School.

Bradford County residents fight flooding

Throughout Bradford County, flooding from Tropical Storm Debby is taking its toll.

"Right now we have about 20 homes that are flooded and several businesses," Bradford County Emergency Manager Brian Johns said. "It's definitely going to get worse. Even if the rain quits right got now, we are still going to experience flooding."

People were wading through rising waters Tuesday to get to their homes. They are hoping to see an end to this soon.

Some areas did see improvement, however. At Bradford County Animal Control, where five puppies drowned as a result of flooding, the water coming from Alligator Creek has come down.

Dogs and cats were taken to the fairgrounds, where they were being picked up by rescue groups.

Keith Mess was donating food and supplies to help. He said he wasn't surprised by the storm's effects.

"It's just that stuff happens, and you got to help out how you can," he said.

"With it raining like this, we are afraid it's going to get in our house," Tison Desue said.

She and her family could only watch from their porch as water crept closer and closer to their sliding glass door. Desue and other families who live at the Pine Forrest Apartments say they've never seen flooding this bad.

"Some people have bags, sandbags," Desue said. "They are on the worse side. Let them go first. Then we will get ours."

Down several miles from the apartment is Lake Sampson, where the rains from Debby are flowing. Hazel Johnson, who's lived there for 15 years, said she is very nervous.

So far her house has not flooded, but the water is already inside her boathouse and is getting closer.

"I don't want it in my house," Johnson said. "I don't want my belongings destroyed. I'm a little bit worried, yes."

The Department of Emergency Management said they need to worry because the water on Lake Sampson continues to rise despite the fact flood gates were opened.

"There are some gates that are open on Sampson," Johns said. "We had them open, all three of them, since early Monday morning. We opened one Sunday night. That should help it go down some. We are just getting so much rainfall it can't go out as fast as it's coming in."

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