SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. – The Board of Sumter County Commissioners formally declared a State of Emergency on Tuesday morning ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa.
Gov. Ron DeSantis also added Marion, Lake and Sumter to the Florida counties under the State of Emergency. Elsa was upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane Tuesday night then downgraded again Wednesday at 2 a.m.
Sumter County officials said the emergency status will provide emergency capabilities if needed. According to emergency manager David Casto, Sumter County could see conditions like heavy rainfall and wind starting Tuesday night.
Casto is worried about flooding in already saturated portions of the county.
“Rain is our biggest threat of flooding,” Casto said. “It’s already occurring just from the wet season we’ve had already. And we anticipate that will be exacerbated by the storm.”
Casto said crews will monitor the low-lying areas, Lake Panasofkee, and the Withlacoochee River.
“That’s a slow-reacting river, so it tends to take three to seven days before it rises,” Casto said. “We do have saturated grounds in the southern part of the county, so we already had sustained water in many areas. We already have teams out on a daily basis to give me a report. Citizens can call our citizens’ information line as well as report any flooding that may occur.”
The county is offering free sandbags at Lake Panasoffkee Recreation Center (1582 County Road 459) on Tuesday.
Residents don’t have a limit but are encouraged to be mindful of others. They are also encouraged to bring their own shovels.
Casto also said the county is not opening shelters at this time.
Sumter County Schools officials announced summer classes will be canceled Wednesday due to potential storm impacts. Neighboring Lake and Marion counties will also close schools for the day.
“Summer school classes for Sumter District School students will be closed, Wednesday, July 7, 2021, due to Tropical Storm Elsa. Additionally, there will be no remote food distribution for Wednesday. We do plan to resume summer school and food distribution on Thursday, July 8, 2021,” Sumter school districts officials said in a statement. “However, the Sumter County School Board will continue to monitor the storm. Should conditions change we will be sure to send further updates and information will be posted on our website, and/or communicated through our call-out system, school signs and TV/Radio media outlets.”