CHIPLEY — A weekend’s worth of rain shutdown schools and closed roads and bridges in Washington and Holmes Counties early this week.
Red Cross in coordination with Washington County Emergency Management will be opening a shelter for those seeking refuge from rising waters. The shelter located at Ebro City Hall, 6620 Dog Track Road will open at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
By Monday afternoon, nearly 30 roads were either closed or deemed barely passable by Washington County officials, and Washington County School District had announced no school for Tuesday.
Holmes County School District sent children home early Monday and cancelled class for Tuesday. Both districts hoped to be back to normal by Wednesday.
Monday morning the Washington County Board of County Commissioners declared a local state of emergency following the torrential rains.
“More heavy rainfall is expected through Tuesday morning and the flash flooding potential will be significant in our area, especially Monday afternoon,” the commissioners’ proclamation stated. “Additional rainfall amounts of 4 to 6 inches are possible with isolated maximum amounts in excess of 8 inches.”
According to the proclamation, roadways were impacted causing dangerous driving conditions and potentially significant flooding on the Choctawhatchee River was forecast, with some locations reaching major flood stage in the days ahead.
Superintendent Joe Taylor said another rain system is expected to move through the area tonight and the schools are being closed due to the possible hazards of running the buses in the morning.
"We can't predict what tomorrow will be like," Taylor said, "but we don't want to send the buses out on the back roads." Taylor said the buses are built for safety, but they can damage the roadways if the ground is too wet. "They'll tear a road up like nobody's business."
As of Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Tallahassee was reporting that Flash flooding and rising river levels remain concerns. There was a brief lull in rainfall/thunderstorms between the earlier storms of Monday and the next round Monday, but an additional 2-3 inches of general rainfall was expected through Tuesday morning. Flash flood watches remain in affect and a severe thunderstorm threat remains elevated.
Timing of overnight squall line will mostly be from around midnight in the far western counties to 8-9 a.m. in the east, the National Weather Service reports.
Local Red Cross leadership, in coordination with Emergency Managers in Gulf, Holmes and Washington Counties, announced today the following information regarding shelter openings.
Residents who decide to take advantage of the Red Cross shelter should bring the with them identification; important medications; diapers, infant formula, baby foods if needed;
Bedding, pillows, blankets, etc.; puzzles, books, small games for children; and any special foods for restricted diets.
Gulf and Holmes counties are on standby and monitoring the developing situation. Emergency Managers and Red Cross officials will re-evaluate tomorrow morning.
Residents are advised to heed warnings from local government officials. Stay tuned to media for future announcements regarding shelter openings and relief operations.