MIDDLEBURG -- In a press conference Tuesday morning, Clay County emergency officials addressed the current state of the county and spoke to those still trapped in the aftermath of Tropical Storm …
MIDDLEBURG -- In a press conference Tuesday morning, Clay County emergency officials addressed the current state of the county and spoke to those still trapped in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irma.
Their message: sit tight, help is on the way.
“Help is on the way,” said Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels. “We know where the folks are... we’re coming to you.”
Hurricane Irma, which was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday, drowned county homes with over 11 inches of rain, downed power lines and stranded individuals across the state.
Within 12 hours Monday, emergency personnel had rescued 178 individuals and 49 animals from the storm’s after effects.
Homes hugging Black Creek were among the hardest hit areas in the county, where record-level flooding caused a three and a half foot storm surge that submerged homes and vehicles.
Both the north and south prongs of Black Creek crested Tuesday morning at 28.5 feet and likely won’t begin to recede until Friday.
Aiding in the rescue efforts for those residents and others are 264 emergency personnel drawn in from the southeastern United States and Mississippi and county emergency personnel.
Rescuers come from various local, state and federal agencies including the Florida National Guard and the United States Coast Guard.
Those individuals are currently performing a grid sweep of homes and businesses throughout the county to assist in evacuation and rescue efforts.
“This is going to take some time...this is going to be a long term recovery event we’re not going to be picked up in a couple days and over with,” said Director of Clay County Emergency Management John Ward.
It is currently unknown how many residents need to be rescued.
Ward said Tuesday individuals who are low on supplies and should evacuate to a shelter if possible. By Monday, over 700 had sought refuge in shelters across the county.
In Clay County, 62 percent of residents are without power.
The shock of the flooding has led some to take canoes, kayaks and boats down swamped streets and overflown creeks to aid in the rescue efforts of their neighbors.
Ward discouraged those individuals from assisting Tuesday.
“We would ask that they not do that...we have a multitude of resources that are out there,” he said. “A lot of these issues are swift water, a lot of boaters that are out there...are not used to the type of swift water that we’re seeing.”
Residents who have animals and attempt to evacuate should either go to Orange Park High School or Keystone Heights Jr./Sr. High, which both accept pets. Residents should bring supplies and a crate for their pets.
There have been no deaths reported in Clay County attributed to Hurricane Irma, however according to Daniels a woman is in critical condition after driving into a body of water early Tuesday morning.
Residents who need immediate assistance should call local law enforcement. Those with concerns are advised to call the Clay County Call Center at (904) 284-7703.
Those who wish to volunteer are advised to call Christ’s Church of Fleming Island at (904) 644-0311