The Voice of the Gem City

February 4, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Residents in St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler counties woke up to another freezing morning today. The National Weather Service is calling for warmer weather and sunny skies today. However winds will be coming in bringing another cold front and scattered showers are predicted for Saturday and Sunday.

On an historic note the 127th anniversary of what’s known as The Great Freeze of 1894-95 is at hand. On Dec. 29, 1894 temperatures plummeted to 7 degrees in some areas and a follow-up freeze hit on Feb. 7 for several days. In Putnam County accounts tell of neighbors finding empty houses where people just got up and walked away, realizing their livelihood was destroyed. The massive destruction led to a shift in citrus growing from north Florida to the south part of the state.

In St. Johns County a single vehicle accident Wednesday morning led to the death of a 21-year-old Clay County man.  St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said the man was near the intersection of Longleaf Parkway and Keystone Corners when his Jeep Patriot rolled several times. Speed is considered a factor in the crash and no other vehicles were believed involved, said deputies. The man suffered traumatic injuries and died despite life-saving efforts.

A 19-year-old St. Augustine man has been arrested for allegedly burglarizing several businesses in St. Johns County. The first burglary was at a restaurant on A1A North where a glass door was broken in using a flagpole. Video showed a person driving a white Cadillac and the restaurant owner recognized the man, giving deputies his address. No one was at home but a BOLO went out for the vehicle. Eventually a St. Augustine Police officer spotted the car and Andrew Tyler Uptain was taken into custody. In all three establishments including a church and a vape store were broken into with the white vehicle spotted in at least one surveillance tape, according to officers. Uptain was booked into the St. Johns County jail on six charges including destroying evidence.

In Flagler County the 2.6 mile project to re-establish sand dunes along State Road A1A in Flagler Beach may be moving forward. The dunes, beach and roadway were first damaged during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. A proposal for an ongoing 50-year restoration project by the U.S. Corps of Engineers has been hampered by 13 holdouts who didn’t want to give easements needed for the project. A Go Fund Me account was set up by residents and the funding cleared the way for some but not all of the needed sites. Now, Flagler official are looking at court action to secure the land from the three people still declining to sign easements, according to Flagler officials.

Coronavirus has changed lots of things including One Book One Putnam. Instead of one book, three are being used for the countywide read that kicked off last month. Last month News of the World was the book to read, this month it’s Cracker Gothic by Wanda Duncan. Her Green Cove Springs-based memoir has been described as “an acutely observed panorama of small-town Florida. Copies of the book can be purchased at Lady Bug’s Gift Shoppe on Second Street in Palatka. On Feb. 25, Duncan will be featured in a Zoom discussion of the book. You must register beginning Feb. 10 to take part. Go to

The Palatka Historic Board meets today at 4 p.m. at City Hall and will be live streamed on the city’s YouTube page. Architect Robert E. Taylor is seeking a certificate of appropriateness for work on the parish hall at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on North Second Street. The board also be discussing and giving city staff direction concerning locations of parking facilities for existing residential structures.

Chocolate lovers are anticipating the upcoming Chocolate and Beyond celebration Feb. 27 from 2-4 p.m. at First Coast Technical College in St. Augustine. Profits from the celebration of chocolate, desserts and other delectable culinary treats aid efforts to recruit, train and recognize RSVP senior volunteers in the St. Johns County School District and other locations in the county. Tickets are $15 each. Call RSVP at 904-547-3945.

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