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Ribault River neighborhoods dig out from under muck, fallen trees, no power – Residents say that they need help too!

September 14, 2017 in Hot Business Tips, In the news, Members Only by admin


Ribault River neighborhoods dig out from under muck, fallen trees

Sylvester Hagan, 83, talks to his insurance agent Wednesday about a tree Hurricane Irma blew onto his Ribault-area home. He estimates it will cost $35,000 to $50,000 to repair his house. (Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union)

In the modest neighborhoods along Jacksonville’s Ribault River, many homes still cringe under the weight of massive, mature trees that Hurricane Irma violently split, bent and toppled onto roofs, cars and streets.

Residents said they are trying to be patient; they know city and utility crews are working to restore power and make streets passable again. But they said they feel a little neglected, suspecting neighborhoods and downtown areas which attracted TV news crews or touring politicians were higher on the city’s priority list.

“I’m not mad at the mayor; I’ve got to give him props for preparing us for the storm,” said Wallace Miller, whose house was flooded by waist-high Ribault River water for two days.

“But if I ever see him walking down the street, I’m going to ask him to give me something, or tell me something, to make me feel better.”

Wallace and his wife, Brendle, rode out the storm in their single-story home, sleeping on their dining room table as the river quickly rose during the night. Wallace said he “slept with one eye open” and finally, early in the morning, he broke through a window so he and his wife could escape. They trudged through dark, waste-deep water across their street to a higher, drier neighbor’s house.

Now they’re sleeping in their cars at night because their home is too wet and damaged to return to, he said.

The river flowed from behind their home and quickly encircled it, he said, slinging around their jacuzzi and full freezer chest, and destroying their garden and patio.

When the water receded after two days, they ripped up their damaged hardwood floors and carpets, tossed out much of their clothing, and used a Wet-Vac to suck moisture from their sofa and chairs, airing them out on their lawn.

Wallace also chased down a JEA truck to ask when crews would come to his neighborhood, but the worker told him he first had to finish work nearby on Lem Turner Road.

“If it wasn’t for my brother, I’d feel abandoned,” Wallace said, pointing to Avery Miller, who traveled from South Carolina to help.

“I’ve got so much going on, I can’t think. I’m tired. I’m sleepy. And my friends can’t help me because they’re busy helping themselves (recover). I’m dead tired.”

Wallace, who is a trucker and a self-employed home contractor, thinks it may take $30,000 to $50,000 for him to make his home livable again. He said he applied for FEMA help.

A few blocks away, Sylvester Hagan’s house on Forest Hills Road was bearing the weight of his neighbor’s ancient oak, which had snapped nearly in two during the storm, and was leaning across his roof and onto the front of his house.

Large branches crashed through ceilings of his bedroom, dining room and sitting room just above a love seat, he said.

“That’s my bedroom right there. The whole ceiling fell on the bed,” he said. “There’s a dagger-like branch that knocked a hole in the dining room ceiling.”

He was safe because he spent the night at a friend’s house. He feared his neighbor’s old trees; a few years ago, he had offered to help pay to get them cut back, but his neighbors, an elderly couple, refused. Now his neighbor’s house is empty and two of its big trees fell, one on Hagan’s house and the other on his street.

Parts of Hagan’s 6-month-old roof and gutters were pulled off, and hanging over the front of his one-story brick and stucco home. Part of the tree’s trunk damaged plumbing pipes, so Hagan does not have power or water, he said.

“It’s really a hassle and an eyesore,” he said of the tree. “I’ve seen rats run across it intermittently. Where there’s one rat, there’s got to be more.”

That’s not his only trouble. A few feet away from his front door, the other large tree blocks the street and on the other side of his home, power lines are draping low and onto the street, worrying his neighbors.

“We’ve been waiting,” said Jacqueline Israel, who lives across the street and has called JEA about the wires.

“Even before this happened, we were neglected,” she said of her neighborhood, “because we have flooding with ordinary rain and potholes in the street. I call the city and it seems like it takes them forever to attend to it.”

Hagan said JEA told him a crew is working less than five miles away and would eventually get to his street.

Hundreds of people in Northwest Jacksonville returned to find homes and apartments unlivable because of flooding or wind damage, said Tameka Gaines Holly, executive director of Transforming Communities Community Development Corporation. She described dozens of residents in Hilltop Village and Washington Heights apartments, in particular, whose first-floor and some second-floor apartments were water damaged, needing major repairs.

“They are completely flooded out; nothing was salvageable,” she said. “They didn’t have anything and they have no family to go to for help.”

Transforming Communities and St. Paul Church are working together, she said, to provide relief, and gather and donate money, clothing, water and food to residents, including some who returned to the Legends Center shelter.

“We had to assure them that all is not lost,” she said. “We need to make sure their spirit isn’t broken … I believe hundreds have been affected in a two-mile area.”

City officials do care about this neighborhood and others which had little media coverage, said Marsha Oliver, a city spokeswoman. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry spent part of the day Wednesday touring some Northside neighborhoods and the Ortega area hit by the storm, distributing bottled water and reassuring residents, she said.

Some flooded areas are in evacuation zones and low-lying areas which Curry warned people about, she added.

“Prior to the storm, the mayor spoke in many of these neighborhoods about warnings related to the storm,” she said, adding many neighborhoods were impacted by Irma.

“If you go to Ortega, there are trees down all over the place. Mandarin also has a large canopy of trees impacted,” she said.

The city’s public works department and JEA are working to make sure roadways and neighborhoods are cleared, she said. The city also is urging residents to report problems by calling 904-630-CITY (2489).

There are also comfort stations where city residents can rest in air conditioning, and recharge their phones and electronics, including the Prime Osborn Convention Center and the Legends Center shelter.

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