When Hurricane Ian dumped nearly two feet of rain on us here in The Swamp in DeBary, FL we’ve been seriously flooded out. Alligators have been swimming where I’d normally be parking my SUV. Flood stage for the Saint Johns River, where I’m moored, is four feet at Astor, about 30 miles north of me. In Deland, the next town to my north the water stage stands at 6’2″! The sayers at the U.S. Weather Service sooth that the river is expected to fall to four and a half feet by this coming Thursday, October 27th. Still an awfully long way to go.
The following is PURE SPECULATION on my part with no scientific evidence to back it up. I think one of the major impediments to the flooding diminishing faster is the fact that much of the Saint Johns River is tidal. It’s a slow moving, northwards flowing river with the highest point of its path only 30 feet above sea level to where it debouches into the Atlantic Ocean past Jacksonville. Tides cause seawater to enter the mouth of the Saint Johns and regularly affect water levels as far south as Lake Monroe 161 miles along the river’s 310 mile length. There are two high tides and two lows each day. When the tide is rising it has to be pushing against the water heading to the sea and, reversing the course at up to 2.6 mph! That HAS to impede the river’s ability to empty itself.
If I was a songwriter I’d be penning “The Saint Johns River Blues.”
At 310 miles in length, the Saint Johns River is the longest in Florida and one of 30 in the United States that flow northwards. With a “drop” of only 30 feet from its headwaters to where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean the current of the river is barely noticeable over most of its course.
Barely a month ago, in August, there were newspaper stories about how the Saint Johns was at its lowest level in more than 60 years. The river is one of the few surface water supplies for drinking water in the state.
Today, a little more than a month later, the river is at its HIGHEST level in more six decades!
Hurricane Ian slammed ashore 12 days ago on September 28th and dumped nearly 22 inches of rain over DeBary in Central Florida where I’m moored. Wind and tidal surge obliterated Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island. I used to spend an occasional weekend out there on the island preferring it to going to the Keys.
Ian, a Category 4 storm, was the deadliest hurricane to strike Florida since the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane that came ashore with winds of 185 mph dwarfing Ian’s 150 mph gusts.
By far the biggest impact the storm left on inland Volusia Country has been the flooding of the Saint Johns. County officials preliminary accounts say that at least 4,000 homes have been inundated. In nearby Winter Springs, 16 miles away, at least 2,000 buildings have been affected. The worst thing for the residents is that FEMA records show only about 525 of those houses had flood insurance policies. That means most homeowners will be on the hook for repairs out of their own pockets.
Here in The Swamp the river has risen so high it topped navigation signs. Items placed on top of my picnic table to keep them above water level have floated away.
A little line of tiny eddy whirlpools string out away from the bottom of my boat as the water slowly flows from the canal to wash over what is usually dry land where I park my SUV.
The sayers at the National Weather Service are soothing that the river should crest sometime tomorrow and start to recede. It will most likely be days before land starts to appear again and when it does it’s going to be a yucky, muddy mess for days, most likely weeks, afterwards. My guess, based on nothing more than a hunch, is that dry land we can drive and walk on will be what we’ll be giving thanks for over dinner
In my last post I wrote about how much water Hurricane Ian dumped on us here in The Swamp on the Saint Johns River in DeBary, FL. How has that effected us? FLOODING! This four-picture collage says all that needs to be said…
The beauty of living on a boat is…water rises. So do you. Of course getting out of here to go do stuff is a hassle. Thank heaven I’ve lived nearly 60 of my 80 years in hurricane-prone areas and had plenty of non-perishable food on board as well as good drinking water. I’m just fine, thanks.