Live Oak —
Portions of area rivers continue to rise and are expected to continue above flood stage before cresting later this week and into next week. The high levels are due to downpours mostly in Georgia where they have been dealing with flooding there.
In the meantime folks locally are being urged to avoid the Withlacoochee and parts of the Suwannee rivers due to potential contamination of five to six million gallons of sewage that spilled into the Withlacoochee from a Valdosta wastewater treatment plant last week. The Withlacoochee connects to the Suwannee in northwest Suwannee County. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is collecting water samples from the area and testing results should be available within the next week.
For more information, visit http://www.doh.state.fl.us/chdsitelist.htm.
Megan Wetherington, senior professional hydrologist for the Suwannee River Water Management District, said today that the upper Suwannee River, northern Suwannee County and to the east of where the Withlacoochee drains into the Suwannee, is ideal for kayaking and canoeing.
“Any potential contamination is from the Withlacoochee on down. The upper Suwannee including Spirit of the Suwannee, Suwannee Springs, White Springs, up to Fargo is unaffected,” said Wetherington. Wetherington said that the areas on the upper Suwannee almost look like a lake at the moment due to the slow flow of the river. As the river water connects with the fast moving Withlacoochee, water slows farther up the Suwannee.
“People with interests on the Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Suwannee and lower Santa Fe rivers should monitor forecasts closely,” said Wetherington. “People near Nobles Ferry on the Suwannee River should monitor the Ellaville forecast.”
For more information on river flooding visit http://www.srwmd.state.fl.us/.
In Hamilton County, Emergency Management continues to monitor the flooding.
“If you live in a low-lying area or along one of these flooding rivers, please keep aware of your situation and have a plan,” said Emergency Management Director Henry Land. “As always do not drive through water on the roads.”
According to Land, those that have well water should bring their water to a boil before consuming or add eight drops of chlorine bleach and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. If you need water, you may bring containers to the Crossroads (CR 141 and SR 6) or Bellville Fire Department (CR 145, Jennings) to be filled between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Information is available on the emergency management website at hamcoem.com and the information line at 386-792-2911. Current road closures can be found online.
Suwannee River at Ellaville: Flood stage is 54 feet. This area is expected to crest in the early morning hours of Saturday at around 61-62 feet. The stage as of today was 51.61 feet.
Suwannee River at Dowling Park: Flood stage is 50 feet. This area is expected to crest Sunday at around 52 feet. The stage as of today was 43.23 feet.
Suwannee River at Branford: Flood stage is 29 feet. This area is expected to crest at 32 to 32 and a half feet in about one week to 10 days. The stage as of today was 23.66 feet.
Santa Fe River at Three Rivers Estates: Flood stage is 19 feet. Wetherington said it is too early for a crest forecast. “The rising Suwannee will cause a backwater flood on the lower Santa Fe. The river should rise above flood stage Wednesday.” The stage as of today was 18.15 feet.
Suwannee River at Luraville: “There is no flood stage established for Luraville,” said Wetherington. “It usually crests 12 hours after Dowling Park crests.” The stage as of today was 34.96 feet. It was 25.86 feet on Feb. 27.
Withlacoochee River at SR 6 Bridge at Blue Springs: “There is no flood stage established for this gage,” said Wetherington. “It has crested and has started to fall.” The stage as of today was 70.76 feet. It was 71.01 feet on Monday.
Dowling Park resident William Barnwell has had to canoe or paddle his row boat across a lower area that has been collecting water to get to his house. There is about 25 feet in distance from the road to where the water began. He said at the deepest point, it was about five feet. He knew this because he had strung up rope between trees to help him maneuver his boat from dry land through the water to get to his house. Before he went to gather some more things, he looked down.
“You are standing where water will be in 24 hours,” said Barnwell.
Barnwell said he could show a marker on his house that he made from when they were flooded in 2009.
“The flood came to 54.9 (feet),” said Barnwell. “And this is about three feet less than that, is what they’re predicting.”
Barnwell’s house is on stilts, but the water levels surpass the height that the houses are allowed to be built.
“You can’t get permission to raise it any higher,” said Barnwell. “I can’t do much to it, but remake it where it is.”
He said that after the flood in 2009 he was given some allowances to help fix his house.
“Maybe I can do something after the flood to preserve the house,” said Barnwell.
Barnwell said that he had already gotten most of what he wanted to bring with him before a full evacuation.
“What we’re doing now is the last thing,” said Barnwell. “I’ve got some dishes and some clothes and a few other personal effects. I’m going to take the mattresses and put them up in the rafters.”
He added he hoped that the foundation would withstand the turbidity of the water because of all the sand that comes with the water force tearing into the pilings.
“The sand was three feet deep in the house the last time,” said Barnwell. “It pushed everything to the back of the house. It’s just a mess. The power of water,” he sighed.
Barnwell said that if you live on the river, it’s not a question of “if” it’s a question of “when” and “how bad”.
“We just evacuate and move on,” said Barnwell.
He pointed to his neighbor who was also in the process of gathering any valuables and getting out.
Barnwell said that he was appreciative of members of his church who have helped him get things moved out.
“The youth group and my pastor came out today,” said Barnwell. “But, we live in a flood plain, that’s what’s going to happen.”