Governor Rick Scott to WPTV: 'We've got the National Guard on standby' for Palm Beach County

WPTV Web Team contributed to this report.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Governor Rick Scott will spend part of his day in Palm Beach County, and made his first stop at WPTV NewsChannel 5 this morning.

He appeared on NewsChannel 5 with Roxanne Stein and John Favole, who asked about his administration's response to the historic flooding that continues to leave several local communities underwater, and some schools closed.

Emergency management officials early Tuesday got their first aerial assessment of the reach of the flooding, when a break in the weather allowed helicopter flights over hard-hit areas. Nearly $9 million in storm damage had been reported to the Palm Beach County Operations Center late Tuesday, and that amount is expected to increase when the county completes a more detailed assessment.

This morning, Gov. Scott met with representatives of the South Florida Water Management District, area government officials and others before taking an aerial tour to get a first-hand look at the severe flooding in Palm Beach County.

In a live pre-dawn interview with WPTV, Scott said that in order to alleviate the extraordinary flooding in parts of the county, water managers have been pumping water as fast as possible.

"The problem you have is as you pump water out of one area it's pumping it back into another area…our biggest concern is we need no more rain."

Scott said he's being accompanied on his Palm Beach County visit by state emergency managers as well as representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to assess the area's needs.

"We've got the National Guard on standby. When we're asked, we'll bring them in," Scott said.

Even without delivering a direct hit, Isaac's intensive rains brought flooding problems for Palm Beach County worse than past hurricanes and left some residents stuck in their homes.

"There is still extensive flooding," said Vince Bonvento, assistant county administrator, who coordinates the county's emergency response. "The amount of rain just overwhelmed the [drainage] system ... We are basically writing the book on this."

Central and western Palm Beach County took the brunt of the waves of rain that spun off Isaac Sunday and Monday, drenching neighborhoods with 15 inches of rain.

Wellington and The Acreage were among the areas hardest hit, though flooding could be found in neighborhoods from Boynton Beach Boulevard to Jupiter Farms.

While floodwaters receded enough for most schools countywide to reopen Wednesday, eight schools remain closed in The Acreage and Loxahatchee due to street flooding.

"Oh my God, it is bad," said Miguel Capellan, 67, as he waded through floodwaters in knee-high rubber boots Tuesday. The longtime resident of The Acreage called it the worst flooding he's seen. "All the area is flooded … The big canals [are] full and the little canals are stuffed."

Standing water in western neighborhoods and other areas could remain for several days because drainage canals in many areas are still at capacity from Isaac's rain.

"It's slightly getting better, slowly but surely," said Tanya Quickel, administrator of the Indian Trails Improvement District, which maintains the drainage canals in Loxahatchee. "When the canals go down, the roads [will] clear."

The eight schools closed Wednesday are: Frontier Elementary, Acreage Pines Elementary, Loxahatchee Groves Elementary, Pierce Hammock Elementary, Golden Grove Elementary, Osceola Creek Middle School, Western Pines Middle School and Seminole Ridge High School.

An emergency shelter for flood victims was scheduled to remain open Wednesday at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

The South Florida Water Management District preached patience Tuesday, saying drainage systems are working but that Isaac just brought too much rain too fast.

"We have been operating the pumps at full capacity since the start," district spokesman Gabe Margasak said. "We got more rainfall than we had capacity … There was nowhere to put the water."

School District spokesman Nat Harrington said while the schools and campuses are open, the roads around them are unsafe, forcing administrators to cancel classes. Students at the affected schools will have excused absences, as will teachers and staff.

Also, students who live in those sections of the county who attend schools elsewhere, such as career academies and magnet schools, also are advised to skip school without penalty.

No decisions have been made yet about school makeup dates for Monday and Tuesday's school cancelations. Administrators say bus transportation and other services at the schools reopening Wednesday should be back to normal.

Palm Beach County parks, libraries, government offices and the Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller offices will

be open Wednesday. Palm Tran buses will be operational.

Wellington roads such as South Shore Boulevard and Greenview Shores Boulevard, which were more suitable for kayaks than cars during Isaac, were wet but passable on Tuesday.

The Acreage and other parts of Loxahatchee largely remained waterlogged, with some unpaved roads submerged and Persimmon Boulevard, Royal Palm Beach Boulevard and other key routes still largely underwater.

Elsewhere, homes in the Palm Beach Plantation neighborhood, near the South Florida Fairgrounds, remained cut off by flooding.

Some neighborhoods west of Boynton Beach saw floodwaters recede Tuesday, but others such as Palm Chase Lakes and Sun Valley still had substantial flooding.

Jim Wade relied on a pump to keep his home in Sun Valley from flooding during the storm. While the flooding on his street receded Tuesday, other neighborhood roads there remained covered by water.

"There is no place for the water to go," Wade said.

The major regional drainage canal for central Palm Beach County, the C-51 canal, continued to operate at maximum capacity Tuesday, dumping billions of gallons of water out to sea. The problem is that's not enough to accommodate all the water pouring in from the local drainage canals operated by cities and other community drainage entities.

The C-51 canal, which runs parallel to Southern Boulevard, reaches from Wellington to West Palm Beach.

After Isaac, the water management district passed emergency orders easing some of the restrictions on how cities and local drainage districts can pump water to try to reduce flooding.

That includes allowing Wellington to start pumping more of its flood waters to the east, where it ends up flowing to the Everglades.

The district allowed the drainage canals in The Acreage to start pumping some of its water straight to the C-51 in addition to the regional canal that usually takes the water. The district on Tuesday also agreed to send temporary pumps to help get more water moving out of The Acreage.

A canal breach Monday night made the flood response more difficult in The Acreage. Work crews brought in fill material and were working Tuesday to plug the breach in M Canal.

Also, part of the embankment of the C-51 canal eroded and collapsed near the intersection of Southern Boulevard and Forest Hill Boulevard, but water district officials called it minimal damage that did not affect the ability to keep draining flood waters.

The county plans to use automated calls to 50,000 homeowners in western areas to help gauge flood damage. The recording will ask residents to call 561-712-6400 to report flood damage or to ask any questions about storm response.

The Salvation Army and American Red cross are teaming up to provide food and water to those hit by flooding in Loxahatchee.

They set up a mobile feeding unit at Acreage Community Park, which was open until 5 p.m. Tuesday and scheduled to reopen at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The park is at 6701 140th Avenue North.

In Wellington, neighborhoods still facing flooding Tuesday included: Aero Club, Binks Forest, Castellina, Lakefield, Meadow Wood, Oakmont Estates and parts of Olympia and Palm Beach Polo.

A return of rains Tuesday afternoon made it even harder to dry out flooded areas.

"The rain was unbelievable. I've never seen it this bad before," said Kellie Ferrante, whose home in The Acreage stayed dry while much of her yard was submerged. "It was just too much rain to handle ... Where are they going to pump it to?"

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