A miserable May week ended Friday with a $59 million price tag.
As National Weather Service officials in Melbourne declared Friday morning that 20 inches of rainfall over the past five days makes May 2009 the wettest on record here by more than 6 inches, Gov. Charlie Crist ordered a state of emergency for areas including Volusia and Flagler counties. This will ease the way for local, state and federal disaster assistance.
Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach city officials issued similar declarations.
“We have a huge disaster and a whole lot of properties and homes that are in really bad shape,” Volusia County Property Appraiser Morgan Gilreath said Friday.
Early in the day, he estimated 976 properties had been affected.
“It is significantly more than we had yesterday.”
That equates to a rising $52 million Volusia County price tag that has local, state and federal elected officials scrambling to find a way to pay for the flood damage.
In Flagler, the cost of damage to roads, parks and infrastructure was estimated at $500,000 while the crop loss for the county is estimated at $6.3 million, county spokesman Carl Laundrie said. Only three homes took on water there, with many more threatened, he said.
U.S. Rep. John Mica said efforts were under way to marshal federal assistance for storm-ravaged East Central Florida. Damage was expected to reach hundreds of millions of dollars, including both urban and agricultural areas.
“Right now, we’re concerned about people getting taken care of,” said Mica, R-Winter Park. “Then, we’ll help them get their lives back together.”
Mica toured flooded areas of Daytona Beach with Mayor Glenn Ritchey and City Manager Jim Chisholm on Friday. Volusia County Vice Chairwoman Joie Alexander and state Rep. Dwayne Taylor joined the group later in the morning for a press conference.
The dignitaries waded barefoot through about 6 inches of water in a parking lot at Lakeside Village to talk with reporters while huddled against the rain underneath the entryway to the community center at the South Street complex. At least 30 of the new town houses in the Lakeside Village HOPE VI public housing complex were flooded, Housing Authority Executive Director Joyours “Pete” Gamble said.
“There’s $94,000 damage per unit,” Gamble said. “I grew up here, and I’ve never seen flooding like this.”
Despite a brief break Thursday afternoon, heavy rain that has fallen for five straight days across parts of Volusia and Flagler counties returned in full force Friday.
The coast from Edgewater to Ormond Beach continued to be deluged with record-setting showers threatening to exacerbate the widespread flooding in dozens of streets and neighborhoods. Flash-flood warnings were in effect throughout the afternoon.
The previous May rainfall record was 12.33 inches tallied at the Daytona Beach International Airport in 1976, a forecaster said. And unofficial rainfall totals from other areas are even higher. Ormond Beach reported 24.8 inches by Thursday afternoon. Bunnell, in Flagler County received 28 inches and Port Orange officials reported 25 inches had fallen as of Friday morning.
However, things may be looking up.
Forecasters called for a 60 percent rain chance today that will drop by half in the evening hours. Sunday and Memorial Day are likely to see 40 percent to 50 percent rain chances.
GLINT OF OPTIMISM
Ritchey, Daytona Beach mayor, said water began receding Thursday as the rain stopped. However, his hopes that would continue Friday morning were dashed, leaving him wondering where the water would go.
“The pumps at all our lift stations are working,” Ritchey said. “It’s just a matter of where to put the water.”
The mayor said the city was lucky retention areas were dry because of the drought before the start of the deluge Monday, but they are now full.
“Mother Nature, she’s an awesome force, and she’s showing us what she can do,” Ritchey said.
Holly Hill residents hoped for some relief from floodwaters as well.
“I think we have turned corners in terms of flooding,” Holly Hill Police Chief Mark Barker said. “The water came down as much as 2 feet in some areas.”
But that didn’t stop police officers from issuing tickets to motorists speeding in flooded areas, including a flooded Walker Street, causing wakes.
Mayor Roland Via lauded the city’s drainage system Friday night — a $10 million effort. The city took on 29.5 inches of rain this week, he said, and the water is receding.
“I’m very proud of the fact that our retention system was helping recede the problem faster that any of our neighboring communities. Our system worked,” Via said.
At Cambridge Basin Lake in Port Orange, the sea wall separated from the bank. The city recently completed $12 million in stormwater-canal improvements in the basin. It remained relatively dry because of the new stormwater system, city officials said Friday, although some residents complained of flooding in the streets. Citywide, 26 homes and one business had flood damage.
The flooding was so extensive in areas of Daytona North, some residents had to be rescued from their homes, officials said. Water made it into three homes there.
In Daytona Beach about 250 people evacuated their homes, and a second shelter opened after the first one filled, the mayor said. A number of local hotels were offering displaced residents discounts.
Homeless people got help at two shelters in Daytona Beach where the the generosity of businesses and individuals shone through the dark clouds.
“It’s been an incredible community effort,” said Kassy Guy-Reed, executive director of the STAR Center for homeless people. “People are just showing up giving what they can. This storm has brought out the best in people.”