Bradford County Floods After The Ultimate Rain Shower

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A porch swing sits almost submerged along the banks of Hampton Lake in Bradford County on Monday afternoon. Bradford County has experienced 8 inches of rain as of Monday, sending the county into a local state of emergency.
A porch swing sits almost submerged along the banks of Hampton Lake in Bradford County Monday afternoon. Eight inches of rain fell in Bradford County as of Monday, sending the county into a local state of emergency. The puddles reached residents’ front doors. Olivia Vega/WUFT News.

The puddles reached their front doorsteps.

Those living on 122nd Street tried to navigate their way around them and the mud-filled streets in plastic clogs and flip-flops.

“My daughter has to walk down this …to get to the bus,” said Chris Wilkerson, who has lived on the road for about five years. She said she had to lock her car in four-wheel drive to get out of her own yard.

Remnants of Tropical Storm Erika soaked Bradford County with 8 inches of rain during the past week, said Brian Johns, director of Bradford’s Emergency Management, forcing the county to declare a local state of emergency. He said at least another inch was expected this week.

The excessive rain has caused lakes and waterways to swell. That has led to flooded roadways, water seeping into people’s homes and more mosquitoes breeding.

Johns said that there is a 40-mile basin that drains into Alligator Creek, which then feeds into various lakes until it reaches Crosby Lake.

“When you got it running in 50 (different ways) and only out of one, that lake comes up in a hurry,” Johns said.

Johns said residents living on Sampson, Crosby and Hampton lakes may have to evacuate within the next few days if the rains worsen. He recommended residents keep essential belongings packed in a sports bag and to be ready to go whenever necessary.

Since last Thursday, about 10,000 sandbags have been picked up and delivered to county residents. Some used the bags to soak the incoming water while others, like Ronnie Moss, attempted to fill 8-foot-long potholes left behind by the rain.

Moss said he’s lived on 122nd Street for about two years and in Starke for about 60.

“There’s a lot of history on this road about maintaining it,” Moss said. “This is the worst it’s ever been.”

The drainage pipe that runs under the road is completely stopped, Moss said, so the water has no choice but to run over it.

“It’s like Niagara Falls going over the road,” he said.

The street is marked by various potholes filled with standing water, the largest of which is an 8-foot-long mud pit crisscrossed with tread marks.

Moss said at least five people have gotten trapped this past week alone, including WUFT reporter Renee Beninate, who was seeking residents affected by the flooding. Her Lexus became lodged in the hole, spraying brown sludge whenever she tried to accelerate.

When a Ford pickup truck owned by the Office of Emergency Management came to the rescue, it also became stuck in the mud. It was eventually pulled free by a fire truck.

About eight residents came out to enjoy the spectacle and help push the Lexus out of its hole.

“When the emergency management truck get stuck, it’s bad,” Moss said, chuckling. He said the sandbags he put in the road yesterday made no difference.

Because 122nd Street is a private road, Bradford County is not responsible for maintaining it. However, declaring a local state of emergency allows county management to work on the private grade, Johns said.

“They’re supposed to maintain the road so that an ambulance or a fire truck can get down there,” Moss said. He then gestured to the various cars trapped in the mud pit. “You can see that’s not happening.”

Johns said the last time he saw rain this bad was in 2012 when Tropical Storm Debbie hit the county.

“This year, I think we’re as wet as I can remember it for a long time,” Johns said.

About Olivia Vega

Olivia is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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