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Unprecedented flooding hits every home in Oceanway neighborhood

Irma's wrath did not spare any houses on Blue Whale Way

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Unprecedented flooding during Hurricane Irma hit every home in one neighborhood in the Oceanway area on Jacksonville's Northside. 

No home was spared on Blue Whale Way, which is not far from the River City Marketplace. Floodwaters from Irma turned the neighborhood into a small river and ruined floors and walls of homes. 

On Thursday, most residents could be seen tearing out carpet and removing furniture that had been damaged by floodwaters. They were also trying to repair cars damaged by water. 

No one in the neighborhood ever expected anything like this.

One resident, Rick Milstead, evacuated to North Carolina during Irma.

"They said, 'Get out.' And I did," he said. 

He returned home to startling images of flooding.

"From what it looks like, (the water) went all the way down to the corner and it didn't move after that," Milstead said. "It looks like I had about 6 inches in house and a foot in garage ... Luckily, I think we’re covered with all the insurance we need."

Every home in the neighborhood had at least 6 to 8 inches of water inside it, which is why there were rugs, furniture and floorboard on practically every curbside days after the storm. 

Millstead called the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as other agencies, for help.

"We called SERVPRO to pull the rugs out," he said. "We called FEMA, said, 'We need assistance,' and (it) said, 'You’re on the list.'" 

But it's a long list.

Many residents are frustrated because they can’t find a body of water that contributed to the flooding. They said it’s a poor drainage system in a neighborhood where, Jason Ford said, the damage is unprecedented.

"Nothing but water. I mean, from here to the other side of the neighborhood. I've got pictures from my front door to the other side -- nothing but water," Ford said.

Ford said it was similar to living in the middle of a lake. Now, for Ford and his neighbors, rebuilding is the first step, and improving drainage in the second. 

Residents said they plan to talk to their city councilman from Oceanway about the drainage issue to see if it can be improved.

Some of the people who have lived in the neighborhood the longest told News4Jax there was a large flood many years ago, but it was nowhere near as bad as what happened during Irma.


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