When Karris Robinson moved into a home right on Bowlees Creek two years ago, she never thought the creek would flood her home, leaving her without any of her belongings.
But on Aug. 31, as the outer bands of Hurricane Hermine moved into Manatee County, Bowlees Creek flooded, wiping out Robinson’s home near Whitfield.
“Within a matter of 20 minutes, I lost everything in my world,” she said while standing on her home’s lanai Friday morning. “The water came in faster than I could keep up with. Within 20 minutes, the water went from my feet to my legs to my hips, and I watched everything that I cared about go down in the water as the water was rising.”
Two weeks after the storm, which was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida in 11 years, Robinson is left without a home. Her house, which she rents, is completely empty, the walls are gone, the furniture destroyed in the storm.
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“It hit so fast and such a little force of Mother Nature,” she said. “It was scary. Very, very scary.”
Hermine’s effect on Manatee County
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have been in Manatee County this week to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Hermine.
FEMA determined that the storm caused more than $1 million worth of damage after completing the tour of the county’s public infrastructure. Next week, FEMA, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will be looking at the county’s beaches to assess the damage.
“We don’t have a complete picture put together yet,” said Don Hermey, Manatee County’s emergency management chief.
In terms of individual homes, FEMA doesn’t do a total dollar value of damage but rather if the home was damaged or destroyed, Hermey said.
“Their focus is on how many people were affected,” he said. “They are really looking for the destroyed homes vs. the damaged homes.
“In the scheme of things, I think Manatee County was very fortunate that we didn’t have direct impact of this storm,” Hermey said. “Manatee County did sustain some damage, and for those people that were affected with flooding, the damage is in some cases minor such as replacing some carpet. Some of it is major like ripping down drywall, taking out kitchens. We weren’t unscathed by any means.”
Struggling to find help
Robinson, who is living on a friend’s couch while trying to figure out her next steps, has had trouble getting help. When she called the American Red Cross two weeks ago, she was told the only open shelter was in Tallahassee.
“You are asking me to give up the only thing I have left that is stable,” she said — her job as a nurse.
For Robinson, it has been difficult to find emergency resources.
“I just don’t know what to do,” she said.
Neighbors and other restoration crews say they haven’t seen anything like this in upwards of 30 years.
“Is it going to happen again?” Robinson said. “When I listen to the news and hear storms out there, my heart rate goes up. It was my home. It was what I worked for. It’s why I worked two jobs and didn’t mind it.”
The last memories of Robinson’s son, who died in 2007, were also lost in the storm — the funeral CDs and a cell phone with a voicemail with his voice on it.
“My photo albums that I’ve had since I was a baby are gone,” she said. “It’s a part of me. ...When you don’t have those photo albums of the people you care about and your memories of your past, it’s everything to me.”