Nearly six months have passed since Tropical Storm Debby hit North Central Florida, but memories of the storm are still fresh for the people who lived through it.
Like Oak public works director T. Brent Whitman recalls getting off the interstate and seeing acres of agricultural land covered in water.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I went down 129 to try to get into town, and all the roads were shut off. They had all the roads barricaded.”
The city of Live Oak doesn’t have natural storm water outlets and is prone to flooding. Whitman said his department knew they had to move the water, but that the scale of task was overwhelming.
“[There] wasn’t enough pumps in the world to move everything,” he said.
Suwannee County Sheriff Tony Cameron remembers tropical storms since coming through Live Oak since his childhood.
“We’ve had ups and downs with weather and flooding here for the past, you know, forever,” the sheriff said. “In the last 40 years, we’ve never seen any devastation such as occurred this time.”
Barney Everett owned a business before the storm came, a shop with antiques, collectibles, furniture; a “little bit of everything.”
“Five thousand square feet, and we had it full,” Everett said of the shop.
When Debby came, he and about 30 others piled as much as they could into the middle of the highway, trying to save his goods from the water.
“A friend of mine brought a big trailer down and we started moving it to warehouses and I lost about 50 percent of my inventory,” he said. “A lot of money went down the drain.”
Much of the city’s infrastructure is fixed, Whitman said, and most of the roads have been patched. Some tenant buildings downtown are vacant, but things are looking up.
Everett has reopened his shop. He hasn’t forgotten the people who helped him during the storm, though.
“Some people I didn’t even know,” he said. “Some people had maybe been in the store, maybe one time. Some people had never been in the store but they saw it was somebody in need, and they came to help. That’s the kind of people that live around here.”
Katherine Hahn wrote this story online.