According to Ian, river flooding threatens inland Florida cities

NORTH HARBOR, Florida. – As Hurricane Ian In the devastated coastal towns of Southwest Florida, residents of this quiet suburb thought they were safe as they had no beach and lived outside of areas under evacuation orders. But then the water kept flowing.

Since Ian’s passage, water levels have risen significantly, turning streets into canals, hitting mailboxes, flooding SUVs and trucks, blocking the main entrance to a motorway and trapping families in their soaked homes. Now, as the days go by, residents here in North Point, a suburb of Sarasota, are running out of food and water.

“The water keeps rising. Who knows when it will stop,” said Samuel Almanzar, 42. He was rescued by crews on Friday along with his father, wife and two children, 11 and 6.

As rescue efforts were completed on Friday, local officials recommended people whose neighborhoods will be flooded evacuate. They said the water will continue to rise in some areas over the next two days.

The North Port floods show that Ian’s impact was not limited to the beaches and tourist towns. The storm’s heavy rains eventually spilled into inland suburbs and cities that were not part of the hurricane warnings.

It’s the rising rivers that do it the deluge of the hurricane, which wreaks havoc long after the wind has died down. And it leads to rescue efforts not too different from those on the coasts.

Flooding has been reported throughout the center of the state: around Orlando and its theme parks, south to Kissimmee, east to Daytona Beach, Arcadia Cattle Country. People near rivers were deeply affected.

Near North Port, the Florida Department of Transportation closed a section of Interstate 75 in both directions late Friday due to the flooding of the Myakka River.

Dozens of National Guardsmen arrived in North Port — about 90 miles south of Tampa — earlier Friday to expedite efforts begun Wednesday by firefighters from other states and counties. And city officials scramble to open an evacuation center at a high school.

A mother-of-two cried on the phone trying to connect her parents so they could pick her up after coming from her flooded neighborhood. A woman showed rescuers a map to reach families with children in the area after learning that water was beginning to rise in their homes. A man waded through waist-deep water with his 8-year-old daughter, trying to venture out to get supplies.

Megan Blevins, who works at a restaurant in nearby Venice, tried to help employees’ families disembark but said some were inaccessible as buildings collapsed and certain streets remained inaccessible.

“We can’t get people. We can’t bring people to them. There are some older people that we want to reach out to because they can’t move,” she said.

Aimee Bowden, 47, said a tree fell on her house, making a hole in her kitchen and dining room and letting water in. old son in a lifeboat.

“I was shocked. You uprooted your whole life,” Bowden said. “You try to just think about what you have to do.”

Just west of North Port, the National Weather Service forecast the Myakka River would hit a record high water level at 12.55 feet (3.8 meters) on Friday and then peak a little higher before receding.

The nearby Peace River was set to hit an even higher mark: nearly 24 feet (7.3 meters), about double the previous record. It runs through mostly rural areas, particularly the cattle town of Arcadia, home to a well-known Florida rodeo.

On Friday there were many concerns about the steadily increasing flow.

“The unpredictability of the river is real and people are in real danger,” DeSoto County Fire Chief Chad Jorgensen said in a county post. “If you’re in these areas, you need to get out now.”

After crossing Florida, Ian made his way across the Atlantic where he turned back to South Carolina on Friday. More than two dozen dead were blamed for the storm.

Elvis Padron, 40, a construction worker now seeking political asylum, fled Venezuela with his wife and 8-year-old daughter and crossed the US-Mexico border in February only to face more hardship.

“My wife refuses to go. She wants to stay,” said Padron, who was wading through the water to find more supplies and trying to convince his wife on the phone that they should leave. “I have a feeling we don’t have much time left.”


Anderson reported from St. Petersburg, Florida.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. According to Ian, river flooding threatens inland Florida cities

Sarah Y. Kim

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