After Irma, officials to keep closer eye on Santa Fe River

flood SF Irma In: After Irma, officials to keep closer eye on Santa Fe River | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

The notice about the water district meeting in High Springs on Thursday, Jan. 18, 20018 was run in the Gainesville Sun, written by Cindy Swirko. (sorry, they did not make a link available)

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-


 

After Irma, officials to keep closer eye on Santa Fe River

New plan will warn residents ahead of flooding

By Cindy Swirko

Staff writer

CCR4 In: After Irma, officials to keep closer eye on Santa Fe River | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Gainesville Sun reporter Cindy Swirko .
[Rob C. Witzel / The Gainesville Sun]
Increased monitoring of flooding on the Santa Fe River will be done by the Suwannee River Water Management District and the National Weather Service to give residents quicker warning of what may come their way in future storms.

The move is in response to the deluge of water that flowed from creeks into the Santa Fe in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

“All of the forecast points now are below O’Leno Rise or on the lower end of the river. They tended to work on a Suwannee River flood and didn’t really address tropical storm flooding on the Santa Fe,” said Tom Mirti, the water district’s water resources director. “What we saw (with Irma) pretty much hadn’t been seen since Hurricane Dora in 1964, which pretty much predated forecasting.”

The public can learn  about the changes at an informational meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the High Springs Historical Museum, 120 NW Second Ave.

Hurricane Irma blew over the region overnight Sept. 10, dropping more than 12 inches of rain at Gainesville Regional Airport. The Weather Service said areas of northeast Alachua County and southern Bradford County were hit especially hard.

The ground had already been saturated by heavy summer rain. When Irma hit, the earth couldn’t absorb much of the rain, so it ran into creeks that flowed in the upper Santa Fe and rushed downstream.

By Sept. 13, water rushing down the river threatened the closure of Interstate 75 between Gainesville and Lake City. Areas all along the Santa Fe, which constitutes the northern border of Alachua County, were flooding.

The Santa Fe empties into the Suwannee River. When it gets high, it pushes water up the lower Santa Fe. That is why most of the focus of flooding has been on that end.

Starting in February, the Weather Service and the district will provide forecasts based on river levels at three new locations — near High Springs at U.S. 441, near O’Leno State Park at I-75 and at Worthington Springs at State Road 121.

“The Santa Fe can flood from tropical events but there weren’t any forecast points that addressed that,” Mirti said. “This is to better handle tropical storm events on the Santa Fe. On that part of the river, it tends to be a bigger issue.”

Also set for discussion at Thursday’s meeting is the implementation of flood stages for the new forecast points and how future events will be handled by the Weather Service and the district using the new forecast services.

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