Water still rising in some FL towns

Full extent of residential damage won’t be known until the waters begin to fall


Jon Davis balanced carefully as he walked across the sandbags on Seminole Boulevard on his way to a riverfront pizza restaurant in Sanford. Employees at the RiverWalk Pizza said they've been told they might have to evacuate if Lake Monroe gets too much higher.

Lake Monroe has topped over the seven foot seawall in downtown Sanford, turning Sanford's Riverwalk into part of the lake.

Many Floridians, now filling bags of sand and manning pumps in an attempt to keep Tropical Storm Fay’s floodwaters out of homes and businesses, admit to being worried about the potential of even more storms coming their way this hurricane season.

Tropical Storm Gustav which has pummeled the Caribbean is predicted to pass to the south of the state, but Tropical Storm Hanna could be a factor by the end of next week and two more tropical waves to the east show some signs of future development.

And if that wasn’t enough, two more tropical waves east of Hanna also have good chances of forming into tropical systems.

"It's getting to be a little scary," said David Lamontagne of Cocoa. He is still trying to pump the water Fay sloshed into his house out onto the squishy land that was once his yard. In communities like his all over Brevard County, where Fay was stationary for two days before moving out last week, the drying out process is going to be a long one. And now, Lamontagne said, there's talk of more rain and possible hurricane force winds from several storms aimed at the Florida peninsula. "I don't even know whether to bother."

Upstream from Brevard County in Seminole, with the water along the St. Johns River and the many tributaries and lakes (most of them, really just wide spots in the river), things are starting to get worse. Lake Harney in eastern Seminole is at 11.6 feet three feet above flood stage. A little north and west of there in downtown Sanford, Lake Monroe is at flood stage, lapping over the top of the seven foot sea wall that usually separates the water from the land. County wide, damage is reported in 460 homes and the damage to property in the county is already at $9.5 million.

"Lake Monroe and Lake Harney are not expected to crest until Saturday or Sunday," said county spokeswoman Susan Vernon-Devlin. "There's a lot more to come."

President Bush has signed a "major disaster declaration" for all 67 counties in the state. Sixteen counties have already been approved for public assistance; six more have made a request but just five have been approved for individual assistance.

Kathy Broyard, coordinator of the Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network, said her group is waiting for assessments to be done so volunteers can begin their assistance work in the flooded areas. "The flood waters are still rising in most areas," she said. "We're looking at beginning work in earnest next week."

She said volunteers are aware that while many homes have already been damaged by floods, there are probably as many more to come. Relief workers are keeping a close eye on the weather and each day they make an assessment about where they can and should go to begin the long process of helping those in need.

Bill Adams, director of CRWRC (Christian Reformed World Relief Committee), said his organization has sent assessment managers to Florida to look at the situation and to help coordinate long term recovery efforts. Construction teams, mostly based in the Midwest, won't be deployed until the extent of the damage is fully known.

"And if Gustav does what it looks like it's going to do to Louisiana, we are more likely to send teams there next week," he said.

The Santa Fe River has risen above flood stage at Fort White and will reach moderate flood status on Friday. The St. Marks River has crested and is expected to fall back to a moderate flood by Friday at the Newport gauge. The Ochlockonee River near Havana in Gadsden and Leon counties, near Tallahassee, has fallen back to moderate flood status. The St. Mary's River, which forms the border between Florida and Georgia, has also fallen to a moderate flood stage at Macclenny and is expected to keep falling to near flood stage through the weekend.

"But because the flood waters from Brevard and some parts of Volusia are still draining into the St. Johns basin, we are looking at more flooding through the center of the state until next week," Seminole County's emergency management director, Alan Harris, said.

While home and business owners in some parts of the state worked to keep the water out of buildings, in other areas street flooding is primarily seen as an inconvenience. In Sanford, where the floods have topped a seven-foot seawall and have spread to the adjacent Riverwalk, residents were using sandbag walls to cross the flooded streets.

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