Mother Nature unleashes: Residents, officials deal with flooding

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By Alice Du Pont

Gadsden County received an estimated 12.9 inches during the past few days, but there were no tornado touchdowns and only a few trees were uprooted, according to Maj. Shawn Wood of the Emergency Management Division of the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office.

"It was a good dry-run for us in preparation for hurricane season. Don't get me wrong, we had our share of problems from the storm but we were able to administratively handle things better," he said.

Thursday's rain event caused street flooding in the county from Chattahoochee to Havana. An officer from the Fish and Wildlife Commission said the river in Chattahoochee was higher than he had ever seen it.

Wood was pleased when he checked on Crawfish Island, an isolated community in Chattahoochee that is prone to flooding. Wood said it had not flooded, according to reports he received from deputies in the field.

When the National Weather Service called saying conditions were right for a tornado near the Rosedale tower, deputies tracked the movement of the high pressure system from the tower to the Rosedale Community to Mt. Pleasant, where it fizzled out.

"We've never been able to do this before. Now we can have deputies on the ground to literally watch the thing and if it touches down, they are right there and we can get help out there quickly," Wood said.

A fisherman parked his red truck and boat trailer near Little River early Thursday. By 2 p.m., the trailer was submerged and water around the truck was rising fast. When authorities determined that the truck was not occupied, they breathed a sigh of relief.

"When we got the call, it was only that a truck was in the river. That's all of the information we had to go on. I think what happened was that the person fishing parked on dry land when the boat was placed in the water. But with all of this rain and the rivers washing down, the river rose too fast I guess," said Lt. Bob Wilder of the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office.

Janice Francis and her husband, Billy, dodged raindrops under a huge umbrella Thursday afternoon. All the couple could do was look halfway down the block at their home on Flagler Street as water lapped around the front door. Already there was about 6 inches of water standing inside the house.

City workers brought out sand bags to send the water in another direction and helped the homeowners move household items onto table tops and the second floor.

"This is the sixth time this house has flooded. I've tried to get the city to do something about it," Janice Francis said.

Quincy City Manager Jack McLean admitted the situation is bad and said that next week he would request a meeting with officials from Quincy Joist to see if the flooding can be mitigated. He said city officials traced the source back to the company's property and that the solution could be as simple as a holding pond.

"I don't want to say anything for certain but that could be the case," he said.

In Quincy, there was flooding at Washington and Main streets, Atlanta Street at the CSX railroad crossing, Joe Knight Road, between U.S. 90 East and High Bridge Road, Industrial Drive and Lanier Road North, near Midway, Ben Bostic Road and Rocky Comfort Creek.

Little River on U.S. 90 was closed temporarily. Most roads throughout the county were open by Friday morning. Officials also kept an eye on Little River at High Bridge Road but didn't close it. Fairbanks Ferry Road on the Gadsden-Leon county line has been closed most of the week due to waters coming down from rivers in Georgia.

"We used every cone and every blinking light we had," Wood said.

Col. Charles Brinkley, who works with emergency management, said the agency’s new space is ideal.

"We have stations here for EMS, fire, Red Cross, Quincy Police Department, communications, the road and bridge department and other essential people in time of an emergency. What we don't have down here is access for people coming in and out to see," he said.

The media and other interested parties are now housed on the first floor where they can use computers and listen to briefings, along with non-essential government officials seeking information. Wood said the new layout is more conducive to all involved.

"Tropical Storm Fay last year was a nightmare. We had people everywhere; some who should have been in here and people who had no business here. If they don't have a seat downstairs with their names on it, they have to go. Now that might sound harsh to some people, but when you are in an emergency situation, you just can't have people hanging around," Wood said.

"The (new) system is working well. There are a few kinks, but we'll work that out," he added.