Storm of the century wreaks havoc on Putnam County

1 dead, thousands without power, damage too extensive to calculate after Hurricane Matthew pounds Florida

One fatality has been reported and more than 22,000 Putnam County residents are without power at 7 p.m. Friday as a slew of officials work to access the damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew.

And the damage might not be done.

According to Putnam County Chief of Emergency Operations and Preparedness, high tide is scheduled for 9 p.m., which will likely create a surge of more water from the Jacksonville area. The St. Johns River, which typically flows north, has reversed itself because of the drastic amount of water.

“We are anticipating to go higher simply because high tide is 9 p.m.,” Romay said. “In that time frame, that’s definitely going to put it higher, on top of the high tide. The river – from where it is – will be higher.

“We had the first two days of a nor'easter, which backed the river up,” Romay said. “Now, a Category 3 hurricane, which has raised the river level. We do have homes with water in them in Dunns Creek and all along the river. We’ve got boats in the water as we speak, trying to ensure we’ve found where everybody is at.”

Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Johnny Greenwood said one storm-related fatality has been reported. A 54-year-old woman was found dead inside a camper at the Crescent City Campground, 2359 Highway 17 South. Greenwood said a tree fell on a camper trailer, where two adults were attempting to ride out the storm. A man escaped with minor injuries, Greenwood said.

Greenwood said the death is being investigated by Major Crimes detectives.

Florida Power and Electric is reporting on its website about 17,000 people are without power in Putnam County, but Romay said that number is closer to 11,000 or 12,000. Clay Electric has about 11,000 without power in Putnam County, as well, Romay said.

The hardest hit area in Putnam County, Romay said, was South Putnam.

“We’ve got areas in all parts of the county, but the majority of the concentrated damage is on the east side of the bridge and the south.”

Palatka City Manager Terry Suggs said the majority of Palatka’s damage appeared to be of the tree and vegetative variety, but said some homes had damaged roof. When reached via cellphone, Suggs said he had driven by C.P. Deli on Crill Avenue and its roof was ripped off.

“We’ll be going in in the next couple of days to access and start the cleanup process tomorrow,” Suggs said.

Romay said numerous crews from the Florida Power & Light, Florida Forestry Service and Putnam County are working to clear roads.

“They’ve gotten all the way to Crescent City,” Romay said.

During the hurricane, which skirted up the east coast of Florida much of Friday, Romay said 1,200-1,300 people stayed in shelters, including 30 in a special needs shelter in Palatka.

According to the Putnam County Emergency Services website, there was 4.48 inches of rainfall in the last 24 hours.