St. Johns River at flood warning status, Lake County issues no wake zone

County opens 6 shelters at area schools

By Adrianna Iwasinski - Investigative Reporter

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - There is concern over flooding in the Lake County community of Astor because the nearby St. Johns River is more than 2 feet above normal levels due to a rainy summer.

Residents living next to the river say they are nervous as Hurricane Dorian is expected to bring more rainfall Tuesday and Wednesday. Click here for the latest track information.

Some residents have put up sandbag walls around their homes and the local marina store has boarded up all its outside windows and doors.

Those living in the low-lying areas of Astor surrounding the St. Johns River are being encouraged to seek higher ground.

Richard and Charlotte Bell live by one of the canals off the river. The canals are already so high, their dock is about to be submerged by all the river.

"It's been coming up the last three days," Richard Bell said. "It will be over that dock probably tonight."

The Bells were here during Hurricane Irma and say their backyard flooded then and they fear it will happen again.

They say if they are forced to evacuate they will but until then they stay and pray the water level doesn't rise too high.

"I'm going to be positive and say it's not going to get that bad," Richard Bell said, looking at his rotting deck surrounded by the swollen river filled canal.

Then there are those who have chosen to evacuate and to head to one of the six shelters set up at schools all across the county.

News 6 went to Umatilla Elementary School.

It is one of the six public shelters run by the county, open to families with pets and those with special needs.

Paul Watkins and his family were one of the first to arrive when the doors opened at noon. Watkins says they live in a manufactured home in Paisley and didn't want to take any chances. Especially since they have a newborn.

"Just make sure my family's safe," Watkins said. "She's only 3 months old and I didn't want (anything) bad to happen and me not be able to protect them."

The county is encouraging anyone in a mobile or manufactured home, and those living in low-lying areas near the river, to go ahead and find a safer place to weather the storm -- and to stay safe from any flooding that may occur here. 

Those who have pets, but who don't have carriers, are also encouraged to come up here since they have an area with kennels and carriers and crates for your pets.

The county has instituted a no wake zone along the river until further notice and the emergency operations center is at level one. So they are just watching and waiting to see what happens with the river here as it continues to maintain flood warning status as Hurricane Dorian makes its approach toward Central Florida.

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