North Florida resident Alyssa Adkins’ home is literally underwater.
Built next to the Suwannee River, Adkins’ home is one example of damage from recent floodings of the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers, caused by heavy rainfall. The floods have also shuttered businesses and forced residents to evacuate to higher ground.
“We have to take the doors out, the baseboards off, a lot of cleaning and then the mosquitoes, of course, are really, really bad,” Adkins said. “I’m just mentally exhausted. I’m renting a house in town where I don’t have to worry about flooding.”
The flood warning issued by the National Weather Service for Gilchrist County on Aug. 27 will continue indefinitely.
Heavy rainfall is expected to cause the rivers “to dramatically rise over the next few days and could lead to minor to moderate flooding,” wrote David Eaton, Gilchrist County Emergency Management Director, in the Gilchrist County Journal.
The river is currently above flood stage and could rise to 21-feet above on Monday. Thursday it could potentially reach 22 feet in the Three Rivers Estates area of the Santa Fe River, according to the Suwannee River Water Management District. The Branford area is expected to hit 25 feet by Tuesday.
Dampier’s Landing to the south take-out on the Ichetucknee is closed due to high water levels, according to the Florida Park Service website. O’Leno State Park is closed for swimming, diving and canoeing this holiday weekend.
“I do think that some people having heard about the flooding and perhaps got, you know cold feet, or wet feet,” said Jim Wood, owner of Santa Fe Canoe Outpost. “And perhaps are thinking twice about coming out.”
Bob Hawkins, owner of the popular river playground and swimming attraction Bob’s River Place in Branford, Fla. has experienced damage. The flooding has forced him to close the attraction on his half-mile property, where he also lives, for several months.
“The trees along the bank of the river, due to the boat traffic, (are) being washed in. I have several trees that have washed in that (are) on my property,” said Hawkins. “This year has been very critical because (the river is) just at the perfect level to hit the roots and go underneath the trees along the bank.”
Speeding boats near Bob’s are technically not in violation of the idle-speed, no-wake zone imposed by Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission last Friday, because Bob’s River Place lies just south of the bridge where the zone is being enforced. FWC officials are patrolling the river for violators where the zone is in effect.
Swimming and canoeing has been suspended on the river due to swift currents and to prevent another tragedy like the drowning-death of two men on the Suwannee last March, according to the Suwannee River Water Management District.
Steve Minnis, spokesman for the Suwannee River Water Management District urged people near the river to take the necessary precautions before the river rises even more in the coming days.
“Next week is statistically the peak of hurricane season,” he wrote in an email. “With levels so high, people should be vigilant about river levels and forecasts.”
Adkins is forced to be vigilant from afar, for now at least.
“Just the wake alone, splashing into our yard, ruining our yard, boaters don’t think about that,” Adkins said. “They don’t get it…I cried when I walked into (our house). We had just done some remodeling and we walked in and, lo and behold, there was septic floating around on my floor.”