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Sally proves a soaker; hurricane brings heavy rains

By Tim Croft
The Star

What was forecast to be primarily a “rain” event for Gulf County turned into something of a deluge event. 

Though the county should avoid the heaviest impacts from Hurricane Sally, which as of press time was taking aim at a location between Biloxi, MS and Mobile, AL, there were impacts nonetheless. 

The fact the storm was taking its sweet time heading landward wasn’t making any forecasting easier. 

And, Tuesday the Board of County Commissioners issued a local state of emergency to last seven days. 

That aligned with a declaration earlier in the day from the governor and with any federal declaration which might be issued later. 

“We could be having rain for the next couple of days and with the riverine system, we are likely going to be monitoring this into the weekend,” said Administrator Michael Hammond. 

Emergency Management Director Marshall Nelson said midday Tuesday the most recent state weather briefings have anywhere from five to 15 inches falling locally. 

“It all will depend on how the thunderstorms line up,” Nelson said, noting the county had already received significant rainfall. 

Nelson also said the forecast eastward turn of the storm after landfall late Tuesday or Wednesday could bring later trouble for the county. 

“They are not overly concerned about the rivers, but I am,” Nelson said. 

There had been some drawdown of Lake Seminole, which feeds the Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers, and the Apalachicola was also down, Nelson noted. 

However, there was a caveat. 

“There is only so much water our riverine system can hold,” Nelson said. 

Forecasts have the Chipola nearing 20 feet late in the week. 

Another victim of the storm is likely to be the beaches, said Assistant Administrator Warren Yeager. 

The beaches had suffered significant damage by Monday. 

“The beaches are taking a beating,” said Commissioner Phil McCroan. 

Yeager said even the berm on the south end of a beach restoration project completed last year had realized sand loss. 

The weather forecasts compelled Gulf District Schools to close all public schools Tuesday, later extending the closure to include Wednesday. 

With hurricane days built into the district calendar, Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton said the district wanted to act “with an abundance of caution.” 

The city of Port St. Joe suffered real problems early Tuesday and Wednesday as high tides arrived with the morning and pushed already rising waters inland. 

There was widespread flooding within the city proper, including sporadic closing of U.S. 98, along with hope that afternoon low tides each day will allow stormwater to run. 

“We want people to say off the roads,” said City Manager Jim Anderson. “We are having flooding and it is only supposed to get higher.” 

The rain also impacted work at the wastewater pond. 

While the pond is holding, water will have to be discharged later this week.