This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties awoke early to rain and winds this morning as Tropical Storm Eta passed through. The storm made its second landfall on Florida at Cedar Key around 4 a.m. Some forecasters are predicting at least a peek at blue skies by afternoon. Not knowing what the storm would do led to some closings being determined Wednesday including courthouses in the Seventh Judicial Circuit. Schools decided to stay open although Putnam County Superintendent Rick Surrency said any children kept home by parents because of weather concerns would be given an excused absence. Community coronavirus testing sites are closed today because of the storms.
St. Augustine is getting ready to celebrate this Saturday as they switch on more than three million lights for the official beginning of Nights of Lights. The mega-event normally would draw thousands to the downtown Plaza de la Constitucion but because of coronavirus that ceremony has been cancelled. The light show has been chosen by National Geographic as one of its 10 top light shows in the world. These days the ongoing display that will continue through January draws tens of thousands and that will be a financial boost for the many businesses hard hit by coronavirus. Reportedly people already are booking stays in St. Augustine and traffic is increasing. Trolleys will be running. A 22-foot Frasier fir is in place in the Plaza, near where the recently removed Confederate obelisk stood. That area’s been neatly sodded over.
In Palatka the Christmas spirit is going up in the form of holiday themed banners on light poles along St. Johns Avenue. Palatka City Commission and the downtown merchants have decided not to hold this year’s Christmas Parade, usually the day after Thanksgiving, because of coronavirus concerns.
Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County Wednesday reported 52 new cases bringing their total since counting in March to 7,219. In Putnam County 16 new cases were reported bringing the total to 2,510. Flagler County reported 13 cases, bringing their total to 2,324.
A lawsuit filed by Captain’s BBQ against Flagler County was to start today but was expected to be delayed by closing of the courthouse due to Tropical Storm Eta concerns. In a surprise move Captain’s is seeking the court to compel County attorney Al Hadeed and the county administrator to give depositions and answer questions regarding the decision by the commission which first voted to expand Captain’s and then rescinded that decision after protests from area residents. Captain’s is located at Bing’s Place, a park owned by the county.
International Golf Parkway in St. Johns County could get a little more crowded if the county’s Growth Management Department gives the go-ahead to a request by Costco Wholesale to build a mega-facility. In August the huge bulk retailer filed a pre-application for a 162,785-square-foot store to go on 18.7 acres east of International Golf Parkway.