KINGSLAND, Ga. — Emergency officials in Georgia’s southeast corner told owners of about 45 low-lying homes to evacuate Saturday as floodwaters from the overflowing St. Marys River threatened to cut off their only escape route to higher ground.
The only road leading to the tiny Flea Hill community was already under a foot of water Saturday morning and the water was continuing to rise, said Mark Crews, Camden County’s emergency management director. Residents who left were not being allowed to return, he said.
“Water’s continuing to rise and it’s getting up close to homes,” Crews said Saturday afternoon. “I don’t want people to try to ride this thing out and have some kind of medical emergency and us having to go in there and get them. There’s one way in and one way out – and that road is underwater.”
Dozens of homeowners along a 10-mile stretch of the river west of Kingsland spent days moving lawn furniture and stockpiling sandbags after the river crested at 12 feet about flood stage last week in neighboring Charlton County. The St. Marys River forms the Georgia-Florida border near the coast, and excess water dumped by Tropical Storm Debby is still working its way downstream.
Crews estimates 80 or more homes are threatened by flooding. The big unknown is how deep the water will get. The last time the river flooded there in April 2009, about 40 homes were swamped with about a foot of water. National Weather Service forecasters predict the coming floodwaters will likely surpass that.
“This is going to be an event we’re going to be dealing with for the next three or four days,” Crews said.
In addition to a flood warning, Camden County was facing a heat advisory Saturday with a heat index above 100 degrees. Crews said officials were also concerned residents might lose electricity and be trapped without air conditioning during a heat wave.
In neighboring Charlton County, on the eastern edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, floodwaters continued to rise Saturday in parts of the county and recede in others. But officials said the worst of the flooding had past.
Bruce Young, Charlton County’s emergency management director, told the Florida Times Union that residents of four homes in a subdivision south of Folkston had to leave Friday night when floodwaters seeped into their homes. That’s in addition to 15 homes confirmed to have flooded in the county earlier in the week. Officials estimated the total was likely closer to 60 homes, most with a foot or two of water in them.
“We won’t be able to get assessment teams in there until Monday” to get a more accurate picture of the damage to homes, said Al Crace, the county administrator.
The surge of stormwater from Debby was still working its downstream through Charlton County, passing the city of Folkston, Saturday after cresting in the county’s southernmost tip Thursday. Crace said Folkston and most surrounding neighborhoods were built outside the floodplain and at no risk.