Hurricane Ian Aftermath

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

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