Florida Governor Rick Scott tours flooded Palm Beach County

Aug 30, 2012

The following article was published in the Sun Sentinel on August 30, 2012: 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Tours Flooded Palm Beach County

By Andy Reid


Gov. Rick Scott took a firsthand look at Palm Beach County flooding Wednesday, expressing confidence in emergency response efforts that have drawn frustration from residents still dealing with flooded roads and homes.

While floodwater in many hard-hit areas continued to recede Wednesday, Wellington and Loxahatchee are still dealing with high-water leftover from then-Tropical Storm’s Isaac’s historic soaking Sunday and Monday.

Central and western Palm Beach County was hit with 15 inches of rain during the storm and ongoing rainfall continues to make the dry-out more difficult.

“You think of each family,” Scott said about homes surrounded by floodwaters he saw during his helicopter flight over Loxahatchee Wednesday. “We want to make sure that every one of these families is taken care of.”

Palm Beach County estimates for damage to homes, public facilities and businesses from Isaac’s flooding spiked to nearly $80 million Wednesday, with another potential $1.4 billion in damage to local agriculture.

At least 69 homes have reported flood damage, and that number is expected to rise as the county continues to reach out to residents struggling with high water.

The damage assessments, which still must be verified by state agencies, could open the door to federal grants and loans for homes and businesses hit with flooding. That could include grants of up to $30,000 for homeowners without federal flood insurance.

High water could linger into the weekend.

“Like everybody else, we are at the mercy of the South Florida Water Management District,” said Nancy Gribble, a Fox Trail resident dealing with lingering flood waters that swamped nearby roads. “There’s a lot of water.”

To improve the emergency outreach to flooded residents, Palm Beach County was asking the state to provide more high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles. Those will join about a dozen county vehicles plowing through high water to offer food, water and evacuation to flooded homeowners.

People can call the county’s Emergency Operations Center at 561-712-4000 to report flood damage, ask questions or ask for help getting food or getting out of flooded homes.

“We should be able to get to everyone that needs help,” said County Commission Chairwoman Shelley Vana, part of the contingent of local officials who met with the governor.

The South Florida Water Management District since Monday has been dumping floodwaters at maximum rates both out to sea and toward the Everglades through the C-51 Canal — which stretches from Wellington to West Palm Beach.

The C-51 provides much of the regional drainage for central Palm Beach County, but has been pushed to capacity from Isaac. That creates a backlog of stormwater in local drainage canals that need to send water to the regional system.

The water management district now plans to pump water into Lake Okeechobee to try to reduce flooding. Water managers are also sending more water from the L-8 Canal, which helps drain Loxahatchee, into old rock mining pits turned into a reservoir west of Royal Palm beach.

“With the intense rainfall from Tropical Storm Isaac, even South Florida’s well-maintained flood control system needs time to provide relief for affected areas,” District Executive Director Melissa Meeker said in a written statement released Wednesday. “Water levels are gradually responding in these areas as water managers and District field staff work around the clock to quickly and safely alleviate flooding.”

Additional pumping late Tuesday allowed for moving more water off main roads that cut through The Acreage. The water was pumped west to West Palm Beach and south to Royal Palm Beach, which have avoided the severity of flooding plaguing Loxahatchee.

“That’s making a big difference … We hope to keep it going,” said Tanya Quickel, administrator of the Indian Trails Improvement District which maintains the drainage canals in Loxahatchee. “More of the through roads are open. They are not perfect, but they are much more improved.”

While water receded on Royal Palm Beach Boulevard, Persimmon Boulevard and other main roads in and out of The Acreage, other key routes as well as many of the side roads lined by homes remained underwater.

While water managers try to get existing water out of Loxahatchee, temporary pumps are moving water out of the nearby J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area to lessen the threat of more flooding.

Concerns about the strain on the berm that keeps more floodwaters from pouring into residential areas from the Corbett prompted the effort to use three temporary pumps for the water management district to move that water to the east and west.

An emergency shelter for flood victims was to remain open Thursday at the South Florida Fairgrounds. Also the Salvation Army and American Red Cross were continuing to provide food and water at Acreage Community Park, located at 6701 140th Avenue North.

While waiting for the damage assessments that could allow for federal aid, Scott on Wednesday announced that donated money is available to those affected by tropical storms Debby and Isaac through the Neighbors to the Rescue disaster fund administered by Florida’s Foundation. More information about the fund is available at FloridasFoundation.org.

“We are moving into the recovery stage,” Scott said.

View the original article here:  http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/palm-beach/fl-isaac-scott-palm-20120829,0,4543870.story