Putnam County still weathering Hurricane Irma fallout

Putnam County employees reported for work Wednesday and numerous offices hoped to open to the public today.

Hurricane Irma pummeled Putnam County on Sunday and Monday, and in the days immediately before and after the storm, county offices were closed to the public.

And despite some offices still being powered by generators, department leaders “anticipate” providing services to the public today.

Press Tompkins, the county’s Public Works Department director, said his office had electricity Wednesday and employees were back at work.

“Our office is fully powered up, and we’re functional,” Tompkins said. “All the main roads are cleared. We’re now working on the secondary roads.”

Public Works road crews are working in different areas of the county, Tompkins said, and office staff is back to work.

But all calls to Public Works are being directed to the Emergency Operations Center in Palatka because the majority of the calls the department has received have been hurricane related, Tompkins said.

He said he’s grateful his department is fully functional because there is more than enough downed trees, downed power lines and flooding to keep workers busy.

There is not as much structural damage as there was after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, but there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done, Tompkins said.

“But what I’ve seen was more flooding,” Tompkins said. “I’ve seen roads underwater that I’ve never seen underwater.”

Code enforcement agent Lisa Suarez has been busy this week assessing damage done to structures throughout the county. But she also oversees Animal Control, which sustained damage during the hurricane.

“We had some actual damage to some of our kennels,” she said.

The roofs of the kennels have peeled because of the storm, and the division put out request for tarp to cover them until they could be replaced.

The agency also had to take care of its animals and monitor other people’s pets at shelters during the hurricane.

The dogs at the Animal Control facility remained there, and staff members fed, watered and walked them when it was safe to do so. Numerous animal shelters took custody of Animal Control’s cats, Suarez said.

“Staff was there … when it was safe to get out there,” Suarez said.

The Animal Control facility is without power, she said, but staff and volunteers are continuing to take care of the animals.

Although county offices were closed to the public Wednesday, employees were at work. Fire and EMS Battalion Chief Paul Flateau said county employees reported either to their offices or to the Emergency Operations Center.

“The employees that are unable to work at their offices for power reasons … they are reporting to the EOC,” Flateau said Wednesday. “We thought we were going to be able to open (to the public) today, but the (lack of) Internet and lack of power has prevented that.”

While some county offices had electricity and Internet, Flateau said, the Putnam County Government Complex in Palatka and other offices were without power.

But Planning and Development Services would be open today to provide “limited permitting” services for only storm-related repairs.

A spokesperson from the Seventh Judicial Circuit said all court proceedings would be suspended until Monday, and the Clerk of Court’s Office will be also be closed until then.

Tax Collector Linda Myers and Property Appraiser Tim Parker said they anticipate opening to the public today.

For questions about hurricane recovery, call the Emergency Operations Center at 329-1904.