Update (9 p.m.): Monday afternoon Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded his Saturday executive order to include emergency declarations for, among others, Alachua, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist and Suwannee counties.
Our original story:
Alachua and Columbia Counties are not in line to get the brunt of Tropical Storm Elsa, but officials in both counties acted Monday to prepare citizens for whatever impact occurs.
“Tropical Storm Elsa’s track shifted to the west overnight and now brings our area more into play,” Columbia County Emergency Management posted on Facebook. “There is still great uncertainty with this storm.”
Elsa currently has wind gusts of up to 65 miles per hour and was moving at 14 miles per hour on Monday. Columbia County said if the current track holds, it expects rainfall of 2-6 inches and wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour, with impacts beginning Wednesday.
“Think of this as a storm that comes through during the summer time and produces a Severe Weather Warning, with rain and wind,” Columbia County Emergency Management wrote Monday afternoon. “If we do hit those wind speeds we could look at downed power lines; trees and limbs are a probability; sheds could be damaged or blown over, trampolines are also in danger of being blown over.”
The National Weather Service has issued a tropical storm warning and a storm surge watch for the Suwannee River, which forms the boundary for Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist, Suwannee and Columbia counties, among others.
Alachua County is not currently in the watch/warning zone, but officials are still issuing daily updates and providing preparation guidelines.
“Based on the current forecast, Alachua County is likely to experience some tropical storm force winds Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, which will be similar to or slightly stronger than the severe thunderstorms the County often sees,” the county said in a statement. “The area has received a lot of rain these last two weeks, so there is a greater potential for downed trees due to oversaturated grounds.”
Alachua County began offering sandbags Monday afternoon and will do so again Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is limiting the bags to 10 per person. A map of the pickup site and traffic flow is available online.
Meanwhile, the City of Gainesville reminded residents to secure loose items and make sure flashlights have batteries—but don’t hoard water.
“[U]nless you are on a well, you do not need to stock up on bottled water,” the city said. “Gainesville Regional Utilities has generators and your water will continue to flow even if you lose power. If you are in a well, remember to have water for drinking, cooking, pets, and flushing your toilets.”