Already saturated ground was soaked over the weekend and as a result the Gulf County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday declared a local state of emergency.
The city of Wewahitchka has received more than 11 inches of rain since last Friday and the Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers are swollen and rising; projected to continue to rise through Sunday, said county emergency management director Marshall Nelson.
“We have received a lot of rain, we were saturated already and that has set up flood conditions,” Nelson said.
As of Tuesday morning, the Apalachicola was above flood stage at 21.36 feet and was projected to rise to just less than 25 feet by Sunday morning, Nelson said.
“The rain actually set up a little better for us,” Nelson said. “The forecast was for a lot of it to be well north of us, but the rain is much closer and we will be able to handle it better.”
The Chipola River, which Nelson noted is effectively a local river, was at 22 feet on Tuesday and expected to rise 28.2 feet by today before slowly receding.
Major flooding occurs at 30 feet.
“The rivers are full and all we are going to see is rising water,” Nelson said. “For the Chipola, 28 feet is a tremendous amount of water and it is all coming to us.”
Nelson likened the potential for flooding to 2005, the last major flood event in the county during which the north end, from White City north, experienced moderate to severe flooding.
Nelson warned this event could be slightly worse.
Nelson said the county would likely call for evacuations from low-lying areas along the rivers later in the week and urged residents along the rivers to prepare.
The major problem won’t be as much water coming in homes as it will be people being cut off by closed roads as the water rises, Nelson said.
Not only will people be unable to leave their homes, emergency and county crews will not have safe access.
“People should go out, get food, get water, get your prescriptions filled,” Nelson said. “You are going to need to take care of yourself.”
Folks should remove loose debris or yard items that might be washed away to a safer place and sandbag their homes, Nelson added.
Sandbags were available Tuesday morning at the Howard Creek Volunteer Fire Department, the Dalkeith Volunteer Fire Department and Wewahitchka Public Works on Seventh Street in Wewahitchka.
Nelson emphasized that sandbags alone would not be enough. He urged residents to also secure visqueen to provide a foundation upon which to place sandbags, with the visqueen used as a layering device.
“Use the visqueen and thread it among the sandbags,” Nelson said.
The Emergency Operations Center has been activated to a Level 2, meaning it will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET each day.
For any questions call 229-9110 or 229-9111 or visit the county’s website and link to “Emergency Management.”
Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison said he and Nelson are already coordinating and two roads, including County Road 12, were near closure with rising water.
“We plan on a busy week ahead,” Nelson said. “We are hoping to keep everybody safe and healthy.”
Gulf County Schools remain open and district staff is monitoring the situation.