The Heat Is Online

Orlando Area Swamped by Two Feet of Rain in Two Days

Volusia waters recede, but troubles just starting for many


Orlando Sentinel, May 24, 2009

DAYTONA BEACH - Florence Johnson hasn't been home since grimy water engulfed her neighborhood Wednesday.

While floodwaters have receded in several areas and residents have returned home to toss out damaged furniture and damp carpets, Johnson remains at an American Red Cross emergency shelter.

"I have a bed to sleep in, and I'm dry. It's not like home, but I'm content," said Johnson, 74, who arrived Wednesday at the shelter at Westside Baptist Church.

Johnson snagged her medication and only a few pieces of clothing before fire-rescue workers plucked her from her three-bedroom home off South Nova Road. Water was ankle-deep inside the home, but her Cadillac parked in the carport was submerged in several feet of water.

I've been living there for 45 years, and I never had to be evacuated before. . . . You know I was scared," she said.

Volusia County was hit hard in last week's storms, receiving 2 feet of rainfall in some areas. County officials estimate $52 million in damages and nearly a thousand damaged homes.

The Red Cross opened a second shelter in Holly Hill after Westside Baptist reached full capacity at 50 people Friday. But more displaced residents have been hitting relatives' homes or taking advantage of discounts at motels, said Dan Roll, executive director of Florida's Coast to Coast Chapter of the Red Cross.

Ralph Sullivan, 53, took his family, along with insurance documents and as much clothing as his car could hold, to a nearby motel. Sullivan, who waded in about 18 inches of water on South Keech Street, said he periodically checks on his home, which had been submerged in a foot and a half of water. But he's more concerned about thieves than the flood.

"I'm checking on my house every day -- people [are] looting," he said.

At Westside Baptist, families talked about losing their belongings and even their homes after roofs collapsed. Many had no insurance.

A 40-foot palm tree crushed Steven Kondziola's studio apartment. He moved there three weeks ago. Kondziola, 34, said he returned Friday night from helping the homeless in Jacksonville to find himself without a home.

John Van's home flooded Tuesday night, just days after he was handed a pink slip at work. The 48-year-old electrician staying at Westside Baptist said he doesn't know where to turn for help.

County officials are in preliminary talks with the state Division of Emergency Management and don't know whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency will step in.

Meanwhile, Van continues to trudge through his duplex to salvage everything he can. He pulled furniture, clothing and carpets onto his lawn Friday, but the rain continued to damage them.

"I don't have rental insurance. . . . All that is lost," he said. "It's like your life is going down the drain.",0,4942847.story?track=rss