Clay County launches volunteer recovery effort after Irma

Dozens rescued as Hurricane Irma sends Black Creek to record crest

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. - Less than 24 hours after dozens of residents had to be rescued from the Black Creek area following record flooding, Clay County Emergency Management launched its post-storm volunteer effort to start cleaning up from Hurricane Irma.

The effort, coordinated through Clay Safety Net, a local faith-based organization that specializes in disaster recovery, will mobilize volunteers Tuesday, beginning at 11 a.m. at Christ’s Church Fleming Island, 5900 US 17.  Volunteers should come dressed appropriately and bring needed equipment, officials said.

 What should volunteers wear? 

  • Boots
  • Work clothes appropriate for mud and water (boots, long pants, etc.)
  • Gloves

  What should volunteers bring? 

  • Rakes
  • Hammers
  • Crowbars
  • Chainsaws (No minors with power equipment will be permitted) 

Anyone with questions about volunteering can contact Clay Safety Net at 904-644-0311 or www.claysafetynet.org

Black Creek rescues

Storm surge combined with up to 20 inches of rain from Hurricane Irma created high flooding in Clay County and caused Black Creek to reach record flood levels.

John Ward, the emergency operations manager of Clay County, says crews have pulled 75 people from flooded homes on Monday and an undetermined number are still stranded as the area's creeks and ponds are getting record flooding.

News4Jax's Tarik Minor confirmed that three U.S. Coast Guard helicopters were headed to the Middleburg area to rescue residents along Black Creek who were reported to be on their roofs. Clay County Fire & Rescue and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, with the help of the Florida National Guard and U.S. Coast Guard rescued 173 people and 49 pets in less than 12 hours Monday.  

On Tuesday, 72 people and 18 pets had been rescued at last check, Clay County officials said. 

PHOTOS: Coast Guard rescues residents, pets from Black Creek flooding

Among the rescues were young kids, elderly people, including a 91-year-old man, handicapped people, tons of cats and dogs, and a rabbit, a lizard and a parrot.

Ward said between 400 and 500 homes received severe flood damage but there have been no serious injuries or deaths. Other groups that assisted in the rescue efforts included the Mississippi Task Force 1, Urban Search & Rescue Swift Water Team, Florida State Fire Marshal, swift water rescue and the Florida National Guard.

Black Creek crested Tuesday morning at 28.5 feet, breaking a record from a 1919 flood which crested at 25.3 feet. Officials said the waters likely won't begin receding until Friday.

WATCH: Black Creek rescue

Initial disaster assessment teams are deployed throughout the county evaluating and reporting damage. 

The majority of the county was still without power Tuesday night. County officials said the storm caused a high volume of power outages that could last for up to a week for some residents. Clay Electric Cooperative is bringing in outside resources to help speed up restoration efforts.

Residents are asked to safely take a photo of trees obstructing roadways and property damage. Send photos with your name and the location or address of the damage pictured to Emergency.Management@claycountygov.com.

Officials are warning residents to not go near downed trees, as a power line may be hidden within the tree and could electrocute people. If you see a downed power line, call 911.  Also remember to “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” in flooded areas.

Clay County Utility Authority said water from your faucet is currently safe to drink. Reclaimed water, used for irrigation, has been turned off. In the event that a boil water notice is necessary, you can find more information at https://www.clayutility.org or any of the official Clay County Emergency Management social media outlets.

The Clay County Call Center, 904-284-7703, is open 24 hours a day for citizens who have questions pertaining to the storm. The county’s website is alert.claycountygov.com. There you can find more information about special needs-shelters, evacuation zones and the county’s alert system.

Homes surrounding Doctors Lake damaged

As cleanup begins across the region, News4Jax's Jonathan Stacey spent Tuesday afternoon surveying Irma's wrath on the homes and property that surrounding Doctors Lake in Clay County.

WATCH: Surveying damage along Doctors Lake

At Romeo Point near Creighton Road, the damage was massive. Docks were broken by wind damage and storm surge. 

Furniture could be seen drying out outside one home after flood water rose in the first floor. 

Not only was there destruction to homes and to docks, but also to boats. One boat could be seen half-submerged under water. 

Road, bridge closures

The Shands Bridge -- State Road 16 connecting Clay with St. Johns County -- reopened about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Blanding Boulevard north of County Road 218 is the only road that remained closed as of Tuesday night, Clay County Emergency Management officials said. 

Many streets are blocked by downed trees and flooding. Teams are working to clear areas as conditions allow.

Boat ramps

Clay County is closing all boat ramps until Monday. 

Garbage collection

Curbside garbage services will be suspended through Wednesday, Sept. 13.

The Rosemary Hill Solid Waste Management Facility will be open normal hours, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, September 13.

School closures

Clay County Schools will be closed Wednesday, Sept. 13.

Shelter status

Shelters are still open. As of Tuesday night, 121 people and 25 pets are staying in shelters throughout the county.

Clay County has two Special Needs Shelters at Lake Asbury Junior High School and the Thrasher-Horne Center. Lake Asbury Junior High is at capacity. There is still availability at the Thrasher-Horne Center, 283 College Dr., Orange Park, FL 32065.  

Clay County’s General Population Shelters are open at the following locations: 

  • Clay High School, 2025 FL-16, Green Cove Springs, FL 32043 
  • Orange Park High School, 2300 Kingsley Ave., Orange Park, FL 32073 (This shelter allows pets.)
  • Wilkinson Elementary School, 4965 Co. Rd. 218, Middleburg, FL 32068. 
  • Keystone Heights Junior/Senior High School, 900 Orchid Ave., Keystone Heights, FL 32656 (This shelter allows pets.) 

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