Even if you're new to the Geneva or Sanford area you probably know by now that the St. Johns River flows through Lake Harney, which is sometimes referred to as 'the wide spot” in the river.
The St. Johns also flows northbound. So, whatever happens to the south, in Brevard County for example, affects our water levels a few days or weeks later.
When the river rose in 2004 we had some time to prepare for the water’s rise – a few weeks after Charley and between Frances and Jeanne, the two biggest rainmakers. Fay's impact is obviously much greater; in only a matter of days the river reached flood stage and continued rising, surpassing the historic record of 1924 by over one foot at Lake Harney.
The timing is not great because we still have 13 weeks of hurricane season left. In years past we never saw much tropical action on the radar after October 1, but with the current unpredictable weather patterns we can't count on that anymore.
An invaluable website is the National Weather Service, Southern Region Headquarters, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) which provides hydrology reports and forecasting.
Our St. Johns River is in the Melbourne region and in times of potential flooding conditions, the site updates and forecasts river levels every half hour.
The web address is much longer than this but you can start with the following: http://ahps.srh.noaa.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php. Click on one of the tiny squares on Florida that is Melbourne. The next screen will show the St. Johns River with points of Lake Harney, Sanford, Deland, and Astor. Click on one of those boxes and you will see the chart showing the current river level and the projection.
The website information is available by chart and also by table, just click on tabular data. You will see the actual measurements of the river every half hour and the projected river levels every six hours. As of this writing the river is 11.07 ft. and projections show it peaking at 11.2 ft. by this weekend.
Now that I’ve given you the facts I’d like also to say that the silver lining of this situation is the generous spirit of community. People pitching in to help with their time, equipment, storage areas, expertise, shoulders to the wheel and to cry on. Strangers, neighbors, colleagues, friends, and family all helping without being asked, taking the helm when they saw a need.
No one who lives here in Geneva has experienced water levels this high, but what shines through is the creativity and resilience of a community willing to help in these extraordinary circumstances. Someone said to me recently, “You have a lot to write about since you live on Lake Harney and are experiencing the flooding.”
I have to say it will take me some time to process this event. I thought I was fairly tough in 2004, walking through water in knee boots from the road back to the house for a month or so. But what a difference another foot of water can make. Dealing with pumping and bailing water out of my foyer (do NOT open the front door!), watching minnows swim around inside, monitoring hoses and pumps to keep the water flow balanced, watching the afternoon skies cloud up, hovering over the laptop in between tasks to check the river levels, and spraying for ants, spiders, and assorted creatures also displaced – it’s been quite the adventure so far; we even found a crawdad!
There have been okay days and bad days. But every bad day has also had a comforting phone call, someone offering assistance, checking on our well-being, and selflessness and generosity that makes me weep.
And then I think about my literary hero Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings who came to Florida without air conditioning, bug repellent, river forecasts and many other creature comforts. She made her home in this simple and wild Florida, accepting it in its tropical serenity and fury.
I wish the best to everyone affected by the flooding and that Mother Nature spares us hope in the weeks to come.
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