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Gainesville Residents Still Recovering From Hurricane Irma

When Seth Locker and Mark Coleman woke up the morning of Sept. 11, there was over a foot of water in their rental home.

“I rolled out in my pajamas and just started getting up,” Coleman, a University of Florida student said. “I [saw] the water everywhere and I know I grabbed my guitar first."

Locker and Coleman’s rental home, located along NW 34th St. in Gainesville, was completely flooded after Hurricane Irma swept through the North Central Florida area. They were forced to crawl out through a small window in the living room after the water level rose to nearly four feet inside their home.

“I actually had to crawl out because when we woke up at 5 or 5:30 in the morning, the power was still on and water was at the base of the sockets,” Locker, a UF student said. “Our breaker is in a room outside of the house so we had to crawl through and it was already 3 and a half feet outside with Hurricane Irma still above us.”

The end result was complete destruction. The flood waters left Coleman and Locker with nothing except their pets and some clothing. Both of their cars and a motorcycle were also destroyed.

“We estimate that we lost $20,000,” Locker said. “That includes our modes of transport, a lot of electronics, our furniture and pretty much everything but clothing and plates and pans that can be washed and salvaged. Everything else that we owned has been destroyed."

The students created a GoFundMe account to help replace some of their personal items. They’ve already surpassed their original $5,000 goal.

The owner of the house, Tom Woodruff, told WUFT News the home took on water decades ago, but damages were never this bad.

Woodruff was aware the house is located in a potential flood zone, but said neither of his neighbors had any flooding. He thinks the flooding was caused by a retention pond near the backyard, which was constructed by the city in May.

He said he has contacted a local attorney to further investigate whether the city is responsible for the flooding.

Locker and Coleman applied for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which provides federal disaster funding for those who live in one of 48 counties that were affected by Hurricane Irma. Over $87 million has already been approved for nearly 107,000 applications.

It’s unclear if and how much funding Locker and Coleman could receive, but they remain positive about their situation. They have since moved into a furnished apartment where they will live for the remainder of the school year.

“The first thing that I thought was all this is gone and I have nothing,” Coleman said. “But when you start seeing the GoFundMe [support] – from some people I know, some people that I don't know – it’s crazy. I wish I could thank all of them individually."

Ramsey is a reporter for WUFT who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.