Irma's scars still remain along Black Creek

Dozens were rescued when Hurricane Irma sent Black Creek to record crest

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

Black Creek's water level appeared to be back to normal Friday, but tremendous damage remains left behind from Hurricane Irma. 

The area in Clay County was one of the hardest hit regions in the Northeast Florida. The river appeared normal nearly two weeks after the storm, but a look beyond its banks showed destroyed refrigerators, pianos and wheelchairs discarded outside homes. It's clear the banks still need a lot of cleaning.

"It never actually got in the house, but everything that was below -- the hot water heaters, the well pump, insulation and everything we had stored, both workshops and the vehicles," John Griffiths said. "So it's pretty devastating."

Emotionally, Griffiths said, this had not been easy on either him or his wife, who had to be rescued during the storm.

"The Forestry Service, of one of them, they tied it up there all the way to the handrail to the top step. And then my wife is paralyzed, so they lifted her there in that John boat and then rescued her to the hill," Griffiths said.

Griffiths' mother-in-law lives across the road and has it even worse. 

"(She lost) everything -- house, cars. Everything," he said. "She is totally devastated.

At the height of the flooding, all that could be seen were high decks. Everything below was under water. The storm surge, combined with up to 20 inches of rain from the hurricane, brought the river to 28.5 feet before dawn Sept. 12 -- a crest that broke a record set in 1919.

Jim Aldous, who lives on the water, said it's still dirty and could be for a while.

"I'm sure we have a lot of septic tanks that overflowed," Aldous said. "I'm sure it's contaminated at this point. (We) need Mother Nature to do its thing and get back to normal for us."

Now, the question remains: Will floodwaters come again?

There had been a temporary stop to commuter boat traffic on Black Creek. But locals said people have been back out boating again quite regularly on the creek. 

Clay County hosted a Hurricane Irma Recovery Resource Event from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Middleburg Civic Association on Palmetto Street. Federal Emergency Management representatives were there to answer question about the registration process for assistance. The health department, building department, contractors and county commissioners were also on hand to help with the recovery process.