As Tropical Storm Elsa plowed across North Florida, strong winds and saturated ground loosened trees, causing many to fall onto roadways across the area.
In Gilchrist County, Deputy Tracy Sanders parked with flashing lights on US 129 to warn drivers of a downed tree that landed on the highway. While in his car, Sanders heard a cracking sound, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.
Looking up, Sanders saw a second tree falling. Sanders braced himself as the tree crashed on top of the patrol car, trapping him inside.
Sanders wasn’t injured, and Gilchrist County Fire Rescue, Trenton Department of Public Safety and other first responders arrived quickly to remove the tree and let Sanders out of the patrol car.
“This is a sobering reminder of how dangerous our roadways can be during and after severe weather strikes,” the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement posted to Facebook.
Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz thanked those who assisted Sanders and reiterated his gratitude for first responders and “what they risk to protect us each and every day.”
Tropical Storm Elsa dropped over 2 inches of rain in Gilchrist County on Wednesday, with the Suwannee River Water Management District reporting 2.5 inches at its Trenton station as of 6 p.m. The station has measured 6.78 inches of rain over the last seven days.
Most area counties received heavier rainfall Wednesday, causing flooded roadways and more downed trees, but local officials say the damage was less than expected.
Amid reports of sinkholes and other dangers, the Gilchrist County incident was only one of the close calls reported Wednesday. The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ASO) posted photos of a water rescue in northwest Gainesville.
“This afternoon, during the peak of Elsa’s wrath, Deputies Shon McGuigan, Sergeant Todd Thomas, and Christopher Bennett assisted in the evacuation of a woman from her residence as the rising floodwaters overtook her property,” the ASO said in a Facebook post.
The ASO also posted photos of deputies around the county cutting trees and blocking flooded roads.
“Not only do Gators stick together in all kinds of weather, we continue to work in it!” the ASO posted.