Parts Of South Florida Still Underwater

Sep 16, 2017
Originally published on September 17, 2017 11:42 am
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People are beginning to rebuild and recover after Hurricane Irma hit South Florida last weekend. Some homeowners still wait for water to recede so they can get back into their neighborhoods. NPR's Russell Lewis went to Bonita Springs, where a cavalry of good Samaritans is helping out.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: To get down McKenna Avenue in Bonita Springs, the easiest way is by canoe.

KYLA DURDEN: Do you want me to go ahead and take this up there?

LEWIS: Kyla Durden has spent part of the day navigating this neighborhood in Southwest Florida. The water is 5 or 6 feet deep in some parts. Durden and about a dozen others from her church in Georgia arrived on Thursday. They're helping people salvage whatever they can out of their flooded-out homes - clothes, scooters, financial papers and tools.

DURDEN: Can you try to put it on - next to it so it doesn't tip over?

LEWIS: Once the canoe is loaded up, Durden paddles back to the street entrance, where people have parked to collect their belongings.

DURDEN: Hey, Ashley, could you help start unload this? It's going to the U-Haul.

LEWIS: Durden grew up in North Florida, knows the state well. And when she saw this neighborhood, she almost cried.

DURDEN: You know, thinking about these families who are coming back from being evacuated, coming to their neighborhoods and going, well, I can't even drive into my neighborhood. It's devastating in my head to just think about that.

LEWIS: Several people were lined up by the edge of the water to be taken by boat to their homes, including Ed Mitchell. He and his wife moved in about two years ago. He's 75, and she's 79. They thought they'd retire here.

ED MITCHELL: My wife said we're never moving again, but guess what? She changed her mind.

LEWIS: Mitchell is actually one of the lucky ones. His front and back yards are underwater, but his slightly elevated house is dry. The water is right up to his garage. This neighborhood is prone to flooding during a regular Florida thunderstorm. So when Irma came through, it was a deluge. This area is one of several in this region that's still flooded out.

PAUL MESSINO: It's insane. I mean, it's absolutely insane.

LEWIS: Paul Messino owns a few rental houses here in the city of about 54,000. As he looks down the block, he doesn't see a road but a river. He says this water isn't from a storm surge, just heavy rains and runoff from the Everglades. He says it will not be easy to recover.

MESSINO: Now comes an exciting new chapter of trying to figure out homeowners, flood, double deductibles, FEMA, FEMA assistance. It's going to be be a full-time job, I think, for a couple months.

LEWIS: About 6 inches of water entered Shawn Shook's house. He loaded up a U-Haul with just a few things to salvage and says pretty much everything else is destroyed, but he's trying to be positive.

SHAWN SHOOK: Just got to keep trucking forward, you know? The main thing is everybody's safe. Family's fine, healthy. You know, we'll move forward. I mean, it's just the way it is.

LEWIS: Shook says the hurricane may have hit Florida a week ago, but for so many people like him, the storm's aftermath will stick around for a long time. Russell Lewis, NPR News, Bonita Springs. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.