Displaced Seminole Residents Seek FEMA Help As St. Johns River Flooding Continues – Orlando Sentinel

GENEVA — Peyton Harrison, 17, and his family loaded up their vehicle on Wednesday with water, food and other supplies provided to Seminole County residents at the Geneva Rural Heritage Center.

Harrison, who lives with her grandparents in a house off the Saint John River, said floodwaters from Hurricane Ian had already surrounded her home. When last checked a few days ago, the water was six inches from the entrance to the house.

“We don’t know yet whether he’s entered the house or not,” said Harrison, who is staying at an Airbnb. “We’ve just raised the house about three or four feet, but this is the worst flooding we’ve had.”

When Harrison heard about the increased flooding that was coming, she said she was scared because all of her belongings were still inside the house.

“It’s kind of in God’s hands because there’s really nothing we can do about it – just hope and pray it’s not in the house,” she said.

Hitting a similar theme, Commissioner Jay Zembower began a press conference at the Rural Heritage Center – serving as FEMA’s site of assistance – saying the unprecedented deluge that blanketed the area “taught us a lesson”. . [about] who really makes the decisions here.

“It is very unfortunate, but we are committed here in the county to do everything in our power to work with our state and federal partners to bring more assets to the community to help with everything. what we can,” he said.

Although former Hurricane Ian has long passed through central Florida, historic flooding continues to plague areas of Seminole County, where lakes along the St. Johns River continue to rise and federal aid expands.

Alan Harris, who heads Seminole’s office of emergency management, said the road to recovery will include the new FEMA Mobile Registry, where residents can apply for federal assistance through the Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program. ).

The program offers hotel or motel stays for those who no longer have access to their accommodation due to the storm.

“We had this program during Hurricane Maria [and] during Hurricane Irma and it helped place many people in extended stay hotels and rental assistance after their homes were destroyed or damaged,” Harris said.

The admissions center will visit Altamonte Springs, Winter Springs, Oviedo, Sanford, Midway, Goldsboro and Lincoln Heights in the coming days, Harris said — possibly more than once.

“Obviously if we see large groups in certain areas, we’ll be back very, very quickly as soon as we can,” he said.

Those who prefer to apply without visiting the support site can call 1-800-61-FEMA or visit FEMA.gov.

A line of locals waits to speak to FEMA officers at the Geneva Rural Heritage Center, hoping to receive housing assistance under the Transitional Housing Assistance Program.  (Monivette Cordeiro / Orlando Sentinel)

Harris, standing in front of pallets of bottled water and other supplies available for distribution at the Rural Heritage Center, 101 E Main St., said Seminole distributed 200,000 water bottles, 2,500 tarps and 7,000 meals from Ian’s walk through the county.

Joy Recicar, vice chair of the Rural Heritage Center board, said the building has been operating as a donation center since they got their electricity back after the storm.

She estimated that 500 to 1,000 people showed up to collect bottled water, meals, tarps, toiletries, clothing and toys from the centre.

“It’s just been a real community effort,” Recicar said.

Even though so many are in need, Lake Monroe, which borders downtown Sanford, still had not peaked Wednesday, even as it flowed ominously across Seminole Boulevard into downtown Sanford. town of Sanford. It should peak Thursday or possibly Friday, Harris said.

But Lake Harney, which adjoins Geneva, is showing signs of retreating, he said.

“I’m happy to report that Lake Harney has crested,” Harris said. “We have seen several reports of a slow decline, but a decline here at Lake Harney. Thus, Lake Harney has reached its crest and the water is receding. “

However, he pointed out that even after local water bodies crest, they will remain above historic levels for days or more.

“Still incredibly high, still dangerous if you drive here,” he said.

Lake Monroe floods East Seminole Boulevard and Fort Mellon Park in downtown Sanford, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022.

Linda Miller stood outside the center with her husband and their dog Annie as they waited for FEMA officials to help them apply for help through the TSA program. Miller, who lives next to Harney Lake, said his home flooded after the storm with four-inch-high waters.

When she returned to collect essential goods, she said she saw waves hitting and splashing her door and windows.

“All [has] has to get out of the house,” she said. “…You can’t be in there. It smells so bad.

Miller said the floors in the house buckled and water came into his shower through the septic tank.

“That’s just mean,” she said. “…You can taste it on your tongue.”

With Harney Lake having crested, Miller said she expects the floodwaters from her home to recede. Since being rescued by Seminole deputies on an airboat, Miller said she and her husband have been staying at a hotel with Annie, but it’s been expensive.

Miller sees a silver lining in the situation, however.

“The good news is that it’s October and the water is getting colder,” she said. “The minute that water goes down, we can all open our windows. It blows this beautiful breeze which will dry out the houses.

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