By Sammy Jean
Through the debris and down limbs, James Quinn works hard to clean up his yard. September 11, 2017 was an eventful and destructive day not only for the state of Florida, but also for the residents of Jacksonville.
According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Irma’s storm surge exceeded record flooding levels set way back in 1965 by Hurricane Dora. Irma dumped an estimated 1.5 million gallons of water on the city, leaving hundreds of streets flooded or under water.
Hurricane Irma left a path of devastation throughout the state. Jacksonville saw record-breaking flooding, making Irma the most devastating hurricane to hit Northeast Florida. On Tuesday, September 12, hundreds of thousands of people headed out into the city to clean up the mess left by the devastating storm.
“My plants are gone, trees down, and my yard is flooded,” Quinn says, as he picks up all the dead branches in his yard. Quinn is a senior man who was proud of his beautiful yard, and now he is almost in tears as he collects the remains of the plants his deceased wife planted nearly 10 years ago. Just two weeks ago, he and his wife were tending to the plants before she went into a simple surgery; she did not make it back home.
Hurricane Irma did not just affect one part of town, the whole of Jacksonville was affected. From September 10 to 17, the city slowly recovered from the damage, flooding and power loss. The Tampa Bay Times reported that hundreds of thousands of pounds of perishable food were thrown out the day after the storm due to power loss.
As destruction lingers around, the city is rebuilding.”My heart hurts for the people coming in to get supplies and food. Many of them are still without power, few without homes. I am thankful my house saw no damage. But we have to help those who lost their homes to Irma or are unable to clean up their yards themselves,” said Reghan Sweeney, Outreach Director for Celebration Church.
Many organizations such as churches, Free Masons, scout clubs, and lodges are helping the victims of Irma. It is amazing how individuals of all backgrounds can come together and help each other. This storm was the biggest of its kind to hit Northeast Florida. Even though many of us were prepared, this amount of damage was unforeseen.
Dorothy, an American Red Cross volunteer, stated: “I am more than happy to help the city. We drove all the way from Ohio to help the Red Cross, it is sad to see all the damage that’s done.”
Quinn’s yard has been cleaned up since that storm hit Jacksonville. A local church was helped him repair his yard. Best of all, they were able to replant most of the plants he and his wife planted years ago. Quinn was very thankful for all the help he received from his neighbors and church members.
JEA and Clay Electric estimated that over 300,000 customers lost power. Clay Electric also stated that around 90 percent of its 174,000 customers lost power due to the storm.
Approximately 90 percent of Clay Electric members are out of power after Hurricane Irma moved through and affected the entire service area Sunday afternoon and evening. Clay Electric members have been frustrated by the outages caused by significant infrastructure damage as Hurricane Irma moved through our service territory,” said Clay Electric.
Since the day after the storm Clay Electric has restored power to over 98 percent of their customers, the remaining 2 percent are in rural areas that sustained tremendous damage. Clay Electric plans to have the 2 percent back on the grid by the end of the week.
Amidst all the damage, heartache and devastation, it is amazing to see the community band together to take care of one another. There have been many efforts to restore Florida from this devastating hurricane. Many will still have to fight hard to restart their lives, especially the individuals that live in South Florida and the Keys. However, as we in Florida recover, we must give a thought to the people in Puerto Rico as well. Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island just a few days after Irma trashed the island. Now the island is 100 percent without power, and there have been reports of mass looting. The death toll has risen to almost 300.
Over 450 tropical storms and hurricanes have hit or affected Florida in some way or the other since record keeping began in 1984. Storms cause tremendous damage in a short amount of time with winds that can reach 160 mph or more and storm surges of over 10 feet, which is why hurricanes are very dangerous in areas that have large bodies of water.
Florida International University estimated that the flooding and winds of Hurricane Irma caused over $18 billion in damages to the state of Florida. Around 25 percent of homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed by the storm.
The aftermath of Irma in the city of Jacksonville will never be forgotten. As we continue to rebuild and get back on track, signs of the damage still linger. Many homes were lost and many lives changed, but there is hope that soon it will all be back to normal. This storm has taught us a valuable lesson on preparedness. This storm was the biggest hurricane in recorded history to hit Florida, after landfall it nearly covered the whole state. Overall we will stay #FirstCoastStrong.