There are still reminders of a flood that inundated parts of Manatee County in late August.
In Raymond and Sharyn Hundley’s home on Ell Way, dirt caked onto the baseboards shows where the water stopped. Tall lamps sat on end tables like a person spooked by the sight of a mouse.
Sharyn Hundley patrolled her two-story home Tuesday morning, clad in pink Crocs, picking out the last things to pack away as workers dissected the damaged interior.
The couple, who have lived there for 19 years, have been through this before.
It was the second time the house had flooded in a year. And while it’s too early to tell where Hurricane Irma will hit, county residents, including the Hundleys, are keeping a close eye and hoping for the best.
As Hurricane Hermine came barreling through in late August 2016, the Hundleys’ home suffered three inches of flooding, doing $33,000 of damage. That May, they had almost stopped paying for their flood insurance.
The Hundleys were out of their house for three months. Hermine was a Category 1 at its height, but was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since 2005.
“A neighbor even took a boat down the center of the street,” she said. The sandbags hadn’t helped much either.
One year later, almost to the day, torrential rain began to fall in the afternoon of Aug. 26. A drainage ditch lines the front of the property and a creek behind were becoming overburdened. The rain kept coming, and by 8 p.m. water started filtering into the house.
“We didn’t sleep much,” Sharyn said. “We were a nervous wreck.”
Night fell. The floor was covered in nine inches of dark, murky water. Sharyn began picking items she could to spare them from the flood.
“My husband has a new name for me,” she recalled, as she swayed back and forth in the wooden rocking chair in the living room. “He calls me the ‘Swamp Queen’ because I just took my shoes off and rolled my pants up and I was sloshing through the house getting things up that I hadn’t noticed before.”
The unnamed system would end up drenching the county with nearly two feet of rain.
“If Irma comes through, our house is going to be flooded again,” Raymond said.
Bay News 9 meteorologist Mike Clay told the Bradenton Herald that a Category 5 would be “catastrophic” in the Tampa Bay area, with the maximum possibility of a 30-foot storm surge.
“The area will be uninhabitable for months,” he said. “No one is predicting a Category 5 is going to hit us.”
The margin for error at day five is about 200 miles, so it’s difficult to predict where Irma will lean, although Florida is in Irma’s forecast cone. Clay said a storm’s path can change several times a day.
“Low lying areas close to water bodies — whether Gulf, river or canals — will always be susceptible to flooding in strong storms,” said county spokesman Nick Azzara. “That’s why it’s so important for people to take (Irma) so seriously and to prepare for it right now.”
For now, the Hundleys are preparing to be out of their home for another three months, relying on the goodwill of church friends.
After contacting the county about dredging ditches around their neighborhood, Sharyn said they were on a waiting list. Now they’re taking action into their own hands.
Sharyn said she passed out 150 fliers to her neighbors asking to call the county about their “critical” flooding situation. She noted that she was also concerned about the recently built Oakwood Apartments shifting runoff into their neighborhood, accentuating the problem. The Hundleys said they plan to create a petition to give to the county.
“Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done immediately,” Raymond said.