Two young women explore storm surge flood waters from Hurricane Irma along the St. Johns River at Memorial Park on Sept. 11, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. Flooding in downtown Jacksonville along the river topped a record set during Hurricane Dora in 1965. (© Sean Rayford/Getty Images)







  As Florida recovers from Irma, Jacksonville has historic flooding — and might get more

by Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — While the rest of Florida began picking itself up after Hurricane Irma, this city in the far northeastern corner of the state was still experiencing serious flooding and was bracing for more inundation to come.

Some floodwaters from the massive tropical storm were expected here, but the scale of the unfolding disaster took Jacksonville and nearby towns by surprise. Driven by tidal flow, an already saturated inland waterway system and Irma’s powerful winds and rains, the swollen and fast-rushing St. Johns River crashed over sea walls and sandbags and left much of the area underwater.

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Officials called the flooding “epic” and “historic,” with the river through this city of nearly 900,000 hitting levels not seen since 1846 — a year after Florida became a state. On Tuesday the city started to recover, but meteorologists warned that some flooding is likely to return as storm-generated waters rush south from the Carolinas toward the Atlantic Ocean.

The St. Johns — 315 miles long and three miles wide at points — is expected to continue threatening communities in northeast Florida because the huge volumes of water the river is holding have no place to go, according to Angie Enyedi, an incident meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“The water will subside very gradually within the St. Johns River basin. The water is trapped in the St. Johns, and essentially ‘sloshes’ north to south within the river with each high tide,” Enyedi wrote in a memo about the disaster. “Major river flooding will continue for many more tide cycles.”

Hundreds of residents had to be rescued from the rising waters in Jacksonville and nearby communities after they chose not to heed pleas from local and state officials to flee the area ahead of Irma. Millions of Floridians had headed north to escape Irma’s potential path after officials warned that the once-powerful storm could cause catastrophic damage to several Florida cities.

“We hope the 356 people who had their lives saved yesterday will take evacuation orders more seriously in the future,” the Jacksonville sheriff’s office tweeted Tuesday.

The evacuation order was lifted Tuesday. Business owners returned to riverfront shops and restaurants to find sea grass, tree limbs and an inch of mud covering streets and some sidewalks. By midday, the mud started to give off a strong odor as it baked in the hot sun.







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