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"How do you fight water?" One Volusia neighborhood cleans up after historic flooding

Most of Mellisa Kipp's belongings were destroyed due to flood waters from Hurricane Ian. Photo: Brendan Byrne / WMFE
Most of Mellisa Kipp's belongings were destroyed due to flood waters from Hurricane Ian. Photo: Brendan Byrne / WMFE

SOUTH DAYTONA, Fla. — One neighborhood in Volusia County is cleaning up after flood waters from Hurricane Ian rose into homes after record-breaking rainfall drenched the region.

A generator runs behind Mellisa Kipp’s South Daytona home, powering dehumidifiers and fans. Most of her furniture is at the curb — destroyed as knee-high flood waters flowed into her home early Thursday morning.

“We noticed the toilet started backing up, and we were trying to get that and then it started to rise up in the garage where it was seeping through a back door front was still fine,” she said. “Then about an hour later, I had to walk into my bedroom, and it was just splash splash splash the water was literally seeping in.”

After the water receded a few hours after the storm, Kipp immediately started ripping out the carpets to try to prevent any mold. She was able to salvage her clothes but mostly everything else she owns is out of the house, moving from her living room to the landfill.

She keeps telling herself things could have been worse and at least she’s safe.

“When we started packing up yesterday, I didn’t get very much in because it just kind of started hitting me. It’s very emotional because you work very hard for all the stuff you own. And then I see everybody else. They’re literally ripping everything out and starting over again,” says Kipp.

“It’s definitely going to be a process, but I just tried to look at the positives of it because if I don’t, I’m not gonna get anything done. It’s hard.”

Kipp is not alone. Piles of trash line the curbs of her South Daytona neighborhood along with tree debris. Chainsaws roar and generators humm as the neighborhood cleans up after the storm. Most people here are still without power.

Ron Kramer cleans out his home after flood waters damaged much of his property. Photo: Brendan Byrne/WMFE

Ron Kramer cleans out his home after flood waters damaged much of his property. Photo: Brendan Byrne/WMFE

Kipp’s neighbor, Ron Kramer, says the canal behind his house and the storm drain in front both backed up, meeting in the middle — his home.

“Anything that was touching the ground and could absorb water, did,” he said. “We tried to save as much as we could. But it’s water.  How do you fight water?”

Both Kramer and Kipp said they’ve never seen flooding like this in their neighborhood. And despite efforts to prepare for the storm, like sandbags, the water still got in.

After historic rainfalls from Hurricane Ian, regions across Central Florida are still grappling with flood waters days after the storm has passed. In Osceola County, officials expect lakes and creeks to continue to rise throughout the week, as much as two feet, as water flows in from other counties.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter in Volusia County for those needing a place to stay, including flooding victims, at the Ocean Center.

And help from the federal government is coming. FEMA is providing individual assistance to those affected by Hurricane Ian — Volusia joins Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Polk counties in eligibility. That assistance can include temporary housing, home repairs and other uninsured disaster-related needs.

In Volusia, emergency manager Jim Judge says now that the county is eligible, individuals can apply online or reach out to the county for help, like at libraries.

As counties like Volusia continue recovery efforts, some lawmakers are calling for better planning as climate change continues to increase the frequency and severity of storms like Ian.

“I think resiliency needs to be built into reconstruction,” said Republican Congress Mike Waltz, who’s district includes parts of Volusia county.

“I’ve been on the science, space and technology subcommittee where we’ve engaged organizations like NIST, NOAA and others to ensure resilience is built into our planning and built into our infrastructure.”

While long-term solutions aim to solve future problems, residents like Mellisa Kipp are focusing on picking up the pieces in the short-term.

“We’re staying at a friend’s house and we’ll probably be there for a while. I’m pretty sure at least a month if not more, but I don’t know what else to do. You know, it’s one of those things.”

Copyright 2022 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Ron Kramer cleans out his home after flood waters damaged much of his property. Photo: Brendan Byrne/WMFE
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Ron Kramer cleans out his home after flood waters damaged much of his property. Photo: Brendan Byrne/WMFE