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Walton County Officials Urge Residents To Avoid Roadways

Walton County Emergency Management officials are stationed at the emergency operations center in DeFuniak Springs.
Walton County Emergency Management

Flooded roadways in Walton County are expected to make driving especially dangerous over the next couple of days.

"You may think you’re going through something that’s six inches deep and realize that it’s twelve inches deep," said Louis Svehla, the county's public information officer. "By the time you get there, sometimes it’s too late.”

Public works crews were already barricading flooded roads by Tuesday evening, Svehla said. Road closures are posted on the Walton County Emergency Management's Facebook page.

Hurricane Sally, which has slowed to a Category 1 storm, has already brought several inches of rain to the county. The National Weather Service in Tallahassee forecasts the western Big Bend region could receive an additional 15-20 inches of rain through Thursday. Walton County remains under a tropical storm warning, meaning sustained winds could reach 39-73 mph and coastal areas could get 1-3 feet of storm surge.

Svehla says he expects crews will be out monitoring and closing flooded roadways 24/7 through the end of the week. "We’re trying to let people know that if they don’t have to travel to please do not travel until this system has passed and all areas are accessible.”

County Emergency Management Director Jeff Goldberg says there have so far been no bridge closures. Bridges remain open unless sustained winds exceed 40 mph. He says county leaders don't expect wind speeds that high with this storm.

Zone A residents have been advised to move to higher ground, but the county hasn't issued a mandatory evacuation order for those areas.
Walton County Emergency Management
Zone A residents have been advised to move to higher ground, but the county hasn't issued a mandatory evacuation order for those areas.

Instead, flooding is their primary concern, Goldberg said. The amount of storm surge expected along the county's coastline isn't enough to prompt mandatory evacuations, but it still poses a danger to residents, he said. "It does make some hazardous roadway conditions."

County commissioners have issued a voluntary evacuation notice to coastal residents and people who live in low-lying areas, urging them to move to higher ground.

An emergency evacuation shelter is open at Freeport High School, Goldberg said.

"We want you to stay off of the roads, unless you are evacuating and going to the shelter or evacuating with a friend."

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.