Sheriff's office managing traffic issues, checking on flooded residences

As Putnam County residents access damage from Category 3 Hurricane Matthew, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Joe Wells said law enforcement officials are working to alleviate traffic issues and check on areas that suffered significant storm surge.

Just before 3 p.m. Saturday, Wells said deputies were dealing with “extreme, heavy traffic congestion.” Many people are returning to Florida’s East Coast and traveling through Putnam County to get there.

“We’ve had to adjust traffic lights and physically control intersections through the Palatka area,” Wells said.

While dealing with traffic issues, Wells said, the sheriff’s office developed a list of seven “areas of concern,” where officials expected storm surge and lower elevation to cause the most problems.

Wells said the sheriff’s office is working with Florida National Guard to go door-to-door to affected areas.

“We’re making sure people evacuated, of if they did stay, we’re seeing if they need assistance or wish to evacuate,” Wells said.

Wells said of the seven areas, the sheriff’s office has access about 5 ½. He expects sheriff’s office employees should have visited all affected areas by nightfall.

Wells said sheriff’s office officials have also checked on homes of special needs residents who stayed in a shelter Friday. If the home had no structure damage or flooding, and had electricity, Wells said, sheriff’s office officials were taking those residents home.

“I think the county did exceptionally well, other than the one tragic loss of life,” said Wells, referring to a 54-year-old woman in Crescent City who died when a tree fell on a trailer at a campground. “People evacuated when they needed to. Everybody has come together as a community. Other than the one tragedy, we’ve had no significant issues.”