After Tropical Storm Elsa reached Gainesville on July 7, the road paving way over the creek located at NE 100th Avenue collapsed, leaving residents waterlocked.
Alachua County spokesperson Mark Sexton said similar flooding issues have occurred in the Fairbanks area when heavier storms came through. But because this community resides on private property, Sexton said there is little the county can do.
“This is a bridge over a creek, and there is no county or public right of way that leads up to this bridge,” he said. “It’s a dirt road going through private property to the bridge, and then more private property on the other side of the bridge where the people are affected when it washes out. It would be against the law for us to use taxpayer dollars to just make improvements on private property.”
Sexton said one possible option for residents is to use a “special assessment” through the county.
“Ultimately, after a bunch of studying and discussion, you would have to have 75% of the affected property owners, which means the property owners on the side of the bridge where they become waterlocked, you would have to have 75% of those property owners to agree to an assessment,” he said. “And they would pay back the cost of the repairs when they get their property tax bill.”
On July 8, FEMA sent out a press release stating 15 Florida counties, including Alachua, were now designated for federal emergency aid in response to Tropical Storm Elsa.
Gloria Cruce, whose parents have lived in the community for about 50 years, said receiving assistance from FEMA has been difficult. When speaking to a FEMA representative, Cruce said they told her Alachua County has not yet been desginated as a disaster area on the website, despite local news reports to the contrary.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that we have things like FEMA. But if it’s already on the news, why isn’t it already accessible through their website?”
Northeast 100th Avenue wasn’t the only road in Alachua County to experience flooding. Tropical Storm Elsa submerged Northwest Fourth Boulevard in Gainesville under several feet of water, trapping multiple vehicles. Serious flooding also damaged homes in the Hills of Santa Fe and Meadowbrook Golf Club neighborhoods.
On Monday, the community put together funds for a temporary fix using crushed rock and a culvert, one of which survived the washout.
Danielle Schmalberg, a resident of the area, said a fellow property owner had access to machinery and rock through his business. She said it cost each household roughly $300 for the temporary fix.
“Even at that, some people were stressed,” she said. “It’ll work for a bit, but a good hard rain may take it out again as the one culvert is definitely not enough for the flow that comes through there. It’s a start at least.”