FL closes river as flooding continues

Disaster response organizations begin assessments, deliver cleanup kits to flood survivors

BY VICKI DESORMIER | August 31, 2008


HOME DELIVERY -- Deltona Fire Department Search and Rescue (SAR) members, Randy Siebert (L) and Tony Jacinto deliver food and medications to stranded residens in this Florida community.
Credit: Barry Bahler/FEMA

While weather watchers have switched their focus to the coming devastation of Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, flood survivors in Florida are just starting to pick up the pieces after Tropical Storm Fay dumped record rainfall on the state.

In addition to the two to two and a half feet of rainfall in some places, swollen streams and lakes are still pushing water into areas along the St. Johns River basin. Florida's longest river, the 310 mile long St. Johns, flows northward from Lake Hell'n Blazes to the south in Indian River County to the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville. Flooding is building in locations north and west of Brevard County where Fay dumped most of her rain.

The St. Johns is closed to all boat traffic between southern Brevard County and northern Volusia County to minimize wakes that might push more water into residences in the flood plane.

"As the various locations are declared eligible for individual relief, we're opening up Disaster Recovery Centers," said Mike Stone of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Stone said six centers are already open two in Brevard County, one in Okeechobee County, one in Volusia County, one in St. Lucie County and one in Hendry County. Another center is expected to open in Hendry County on Sunday or Monday once a permanent location can be secured. In 15 counties statewide, public assistance is available.

The main focus of the centers is to give residents who sustained damage from the storm to have a single place to seek assistance from a variety of agencies. Flood victims do not have to go to the center. They can register on line or on the phone, Stone said, but the one-stop shopping offered by the centers is a convenience for those who are trying to put their lives back together.

"We're dealing with a flooding situation that changes day to day. It's not like a hurricane that comes in, does it's damage and moves on. The flood waters are still coming up in the southern and central part of the state right now," Stone said.

The Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network (FLAPDAN) is actively engaged in assessing needs following Tropical Storm Fay. Kathy Broyard, that group's executive director, said her volunteers are on the ground with clean up kits in various areas. They are also involved in actively working with other agencies, including FEMA and the state emergency management program, to help with a faster recovery response.

"We are finding the biggest problem is once again that most people can't afford or aren't in an area where they can get flood insurance," Broyard said. "We're working with the other agencies to try to put people together with the agencies that can help."

Presently, there are no open shelters anywhere in the state, according to the state emergency management office, but some churches, especially in Okeechobee County report they are offering temporary housing to migrant workers whose homes were severely damaged by the flood waters.

In the meantime, the Florida Emergency Operations Center is keeping a close eye on both Tropical Storm Hanna and Hurricane Gustav. While Gustav is not expected to hit the state directly, the storm's outer bands may bring more heavy rains to the already drenched state. Hanna remains more of a concern to storm watchers, but forecasters say they it will be several days before the impact on the U.S. can be accurately predicted.


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How US flood insurance works

Atlantic storm morphs into Javier


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