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Heavy flooding swamps Duval, Clay counties

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Heavy rains and high tides are leading to flooding around Duval and Clay counties leaving residents stranded and in fear for their homes and properties.  

On the Northside, flooding has been an issue for residents of Cedar Point for years and a local councilman there said the reason is negligence.

City Councilman Al Ferraro said the former administration and public works department wasn't doing enough to help drain the problematic intersection of Cedar Hill Road and Pumpkin Hill Road. 

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Now that he's in office he said said he has a lot to do in a very little amount of time.

Ferraro said they'll start working in the area heavily Tuesday because the flooding is more than just a problem for drivers.  With the water comes other hazards like snakes, mosquito larvae, sewage and bacteria that people are being forced to deal with on a daily basis.

"Nothing's been done in the Northside for decades.  So with the new administration of the new City Council, were trying to get the drainage areas worked out.  We're trying to get the new piping in," Ferraro said.  "We have the flooding problems, the septic tanks with the draining of the ditches, but then also on the roads we have deterioration because it's softening so it's just tearing the roads up."

PHOTO GALLERY: Water over roads, near homes

Monday, the city's public works department began digging trenches to lower the water but with a lot of debris getting caught in the ditches, Ferraro said that won't fix the problem permanently.

He said the area needs pipes, which is why he's requested an emergency permit from the city that will allow public works to get those pipes installed immediately, helping to drain the area on a regular basis.

"It's part of public works and it is now being addressed.  With the new administration it is being addressed.  It's been neglected for years now it is being addressed," Ferraro said.

If that emergency permit is accepted Cedar Hill could see pipes being installed in the area within 14 to 20 days.

Another area that's been hit the hardest in Duval County is in the St. Nicholas area and homeowners are watching flood waters creep closer to their homes and they blame it on the tide but are also saying that the Department of Transportation is to blame as well.

"We've never seen anything like it," homeowner David Gum said.

Gum, like others in his neighborhood, have watched for several days now as the waters keep getting closer to their homes then recede with the tide. The area on the Southside is close to the St Johns River and flooding from tides is normal, but now with the moon at its closest point to earth it is creating higher than normal tides and that, along with recent construction work in the area, are causing more people in the area to see a lot more water.

"It used to be kind of typical until they built the retention pond over here about a year ago," Gum said.

That pond is part of DOT's work on the Overland Interstate 95 Bridge project.  DOT was out looking at the site Monday to see if it's contributing to the problem, which they don't think it is.

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And though the DOT said the retention pond is working as planned Gum and other residents said something has changed, and it's not just the weather.

"I sure hope (things don't get worse). I own a duplex around the corner at Bee Street and Alamo Street and I would hate to see that," Gum said.  "The water is pretty close but the building is high, it's not on the slab or anything.  I've owned it for 18 years and it's not flooded there yet.  Yet is the question."

Bobby Back is another resident in the area who is getting concerned with rising water levels. 

He said his wife's family has owned the land they live on for over 100 years and though they knew it flooded occasionally, now, and particularly over the last few days, the water is a lot higher and closer to his home and he thinks it's going to cause some big problems. 

"I called my insurance agent this morning and told him, 'Look, we are going to lose the house now.'  It's just a matter of when and what our responsibilities are before that happens," Back said.  "We already have foundation problems because of this.  I would expect within the next year this water is  going to be up to the house and we will lose the house." 

Like Gum, Back said that he thinks the flooding is for a number of reasons including the retention pond and DOT's Overland Bridge project which is causing drainage water to be diverted into the area.

"I think everybody through the year has tried to resolve drainage issues in other places around us and it's just kind of converged everything into right here," Back said. 

Ron Tittle, with the DOT, came out to the area to look at the site, take pictures and speak to engineers. 

"I did check with our construction engineer over the project and the site manager with FDOT and so far, it looks like the drainage from our project is draining properly into the pond.  Our water from that project is going into our pond.  (The engineer) said he checked the pond and its working properly, so I know we see a lot of buildup of water and this area is traditionally low.  We will double check it again to make sure," Tittle said.  

In Clay County, residents are saying that the situation is even worse and that they are in a desperate situation.

Residents on Jones Creek Road in Keystone Heights have seen most of their street washed away, leaving some people stranded and unable to get to and from their homes.

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Residents are pleading for help, but said they can't get it because they live on a private road.

The road, which runs along County Road 21, is so washed out that residents like Kevin Kahn, who drives a 4-wheel-drive Jeep can't even make it home, driving down as far as he can before having to park and walk the rest of the way home.

Kahn said his wife is stranded at home, as well as some other residents who have medical issues.  To add insult to injury residents said they just paid to get the road graded over the weekend and now that work has been washed away as well.

"We're going to try to get neighbors together to try to do something.  A couple of neighbors have talked to a few people to try to get things fixed.  There's nothing we can do but try to get it back together," Kahn said.

But Kahn said that could take hundreds of thousands of dollars and trying to get the road taken over by the county has its hurdles as well.

Kahn said that every time they get close to meeting the standards that the county demands for them to take over a road, the road gets washed out again and residents are stuck back at square one.


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