Crawfordville, Florida- July 5, 2012
Nearly two weeks ago, Tropical Storm Debby reeked havoc in Wakulla County, washing out roadways and damaging more than 400 homes and businesses.
Today, the skies are clear. The water is receding. But the people of Panacea, like the Taylors, have only begun picking up the pieces of their homes and their lives.
In the 60 plus years they've lived in this area, the Taylors says they say they've never seen anything quite like Debby. The tropical storm brought rainwater all the way to their front steps, about 10-inches deep.
While their yard is badly damaged and much of the tools Add Taylor uses for his drywall business are ruined, their home still stands.
"It's harder on a lot of other people too. A lot harder. I don't mind being stuck home, as long as the water didn't get in my home and everything. But there's a lot of them they are just not that lucky," says Shirley Taylor.
In Crawfordville, help has arrived. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and State Emergency Response Team (SERT) opened a Disaster Recovery Center Thursday July 5 off of Cedar Ave at the Wakulla County Extension Office.
Volunteers from the American Red Cross and workers from state, county and federal government are staffing the center. They've helped more than a dozen families apply for federal assistance and get the supplies they need such as a prepared meals, toiletries and bottled water, since the center opened its doors late Thursday afternoon.
"Water is the real need because of the flooding and the water supply. A lot of people are on septic so their water supply is being contaminated," says American Red Cross Volunteer Betty Carter.
But despite what many of the people in Wakulla County have been through, they remain positive.
"You can't give up. You have to just keep on going. Don't look back. Just look ahead," says Add Taylor.
The center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. FEMA officials say it will remain open as needed. The center is funded through a grant from the federal government.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and State Emergency Response Team (SERT) Disaster Response Center (DRC) has opened at the Wakulla County Extension Office at 84 Cedar Avenue in Crawfordville. The Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until further notice. Residents with damage from Tropical Storm Debby are asked to contact the FEMA hotline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to register for assistance. Officials at the center recommend residents call the 800 number first to become registered, but it isn’t required. Residents can also make the call from the DRC phone line.
Agencies represented at the extension center include: FEMA, Florida SERT, Department of Children and Families, U.S. Small Business Administration, FEMA mitigation, state mitigation, Red Cross, Catholic Charities and the Department of Economic Opportunity-Workforce Plus. Since there are a number of agencies at the Ag Center, some of the agencies are located inside the building and some are in the multi-purpose arena.
The DRC is part of the federal disaster declaration from President Obama for Individual Assistance. Wakulla County is also anticipating a declaration for Public Assistance for infrastructure losses and other governmental expenses within the week.
Residents who have had damage from Tropical Storm Debby and can benefit from Samaritan’s Purse services with debris and muck out are invited to call 2-1-1 or drop by the Lake Ellen Baptist Church between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Samaritan’s staff is seeking additional assistance assignments. If there are no additional assignments for Wakulla County residents, Samaritan’s Purse will pull out of the community and offer assistance in other hard hit communities. It is critical to either call now or drop by the church before the crews leave the county.