Tropical Storm Colin, the first tropical activity to occur since the beginning of this year’s hurricane season, made landfall Monday, threatening Putnam and nearby counties.
Prior to the storm making landfall along the Gulf Coast and traveling northeast over Putnam, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 34 counties – including Putnam, St. Johns, Alachua, Flagler and other surrounding counties.
Scott issued the executive order Monday morning and said he did so as a precautionary measure to protect lives and communities.
“Tropical Storm Colin poses a severe threat to the state of Florida and requires that timely precautions are taken to protect the communities, critical infrastructure and general welfare of this state,” Scott said in the executive order. “As governor, I am responsible to meet the dangers presented to this state and its people by this emergency.”
According to the National Hurricane Center, the tropical storm warning put Putnam and other counties at risk of heavy rainfall, storm surges, flooding, wind and tornadoes.
Ryan Simpson, Putnam’s emergency management preparedness coordinator, said local residents should have prepared for the tropical storm in the same manner they would prepare for a major hurricane.
The common misconception about tropical activity, Simpson said, is there is little need to worry or prepare if it’s only a tropical storm or hurricane with a low category number, which is determined by wind speed.
“While many people think of the hazard being the wind, one of the biggest hazards is flooding,” he said. “It doesn’t take much flooding at all to impact your life or your home.”
Simpson said the county’s Emergency Services Department encourages local residents to be ready for tropical storms, hurricanes and all types of hazards.
With hurricane season having started June 1, Simpson said, hurricane preparedness is more important than ever. The next tropical activity could be stronger and more adversely affect Putnam, so people should have a plan of action, he said.
“The biggest think is being aware,” Simpson said. “We were talking about this system last week. It’s important that people check the weather … so they have time to get prepared. Had this tropical storm been a hurricane, what things would (people) have wanted to do now that they should have done before the storm?”
The state of emergency was enacted to allow state officials to assist local communities prepare for the tropical storm, Simpson said.
Within the last 10 years, hurricane-related states of emergency for Putnam were issued only a handful of times: for Tropical Storms Fay and Debby in 2008 and 2012, and for an unnamed tropical system in 2011.
There were three hurricane-related states of emergency for Putnam in 2004 alone.
“While Florida collectively hasn’t had much in the way of hurricanes, Putnam County has been declared in a state of disaster three times since 2004.
To be better prepared for tropical activity and other hazards, Simpson encourages people to use the WeatherSTEM, CODERED and Putnam County Community Preparedness apps. Simpson also said people should visit des.putnam-fl.com and the websites for the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service.