As residents struggle with aftermath of storms, Broward schools' damage hits $8 million
Broward schools worked overtime to prepare flood-damaged schools for students to return. But many residents are counting on FEMA and the local government as they try to recover from the devastating damage.
The floods are not done with Broward County. On the back of last week's historic deluge, three more inches of rain fell Monday — and flights were temporarily grounded again at Fort Lauderdale airport. As of Tuesday, inches of water and mud still covered some streets.
But schools, businesses and some government buildings are back open.
The flooding shut down Broward County Public Schools for two days, but the district was able to reopen Monday. District staff worked through the weekend to tear out drywall and mop up the floodwaters.
According to the district, the flooding caused issues at a couple of dozen schools, but there were nine that took the brunt of the damage, all in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood.
So far, the total estimate for the damage and overtime for workers is $8 million.
"We really do hope that we're able to recoup some of these costs through either the federal or state partners," said John Sullivan, a spokesperson for the district.
For affected residents, any federal assistance from FEMA is dependent on how much damage there was to an area. So far, crews have assessed over 700 properties, and most have major damage — which means that the water line was above 18 inches for an extended amount of time.
Photos of these houses show the high water lines and piles of debris outside.
Many of these families are now functionally homeless and the district will have to step up and help them with transportation and with other resources and support.
Help from FEMA
Broward County, the city of Fort Lauderdale and Governor Ron DeSantis all declared a state of emergency on the back of the unprecedented storms last week.
The state's emergency response team brought in vacuum trucks and water pumps. They say they've removed over 100,000 gallons of water in one night from the Melrose Park neighborhood, and they're going to continue those operations this week.
The city of Fort Lauderdale is asking that any residents who had a foot or more water in their homes report the damages to 954-828-8000. Teams from the city are assessing the damages and submitting reports to FEMA.
Residents in the harder hit neighborhoods are now returning to sort through the mess.
Resident and local activist Elijah Manley, who lives near Dillard High School, said he couldn’t make it back home for four days because of the floods.
On Monday he was digging through his house throwing away any furniture that got flooded and trying to salvage what he can. “I can’t really stay here. Even though the water is gone, it’s the smell, the mold, I don’t know,” he said.
Manley is sleeping at a friend's house until he can move to an apartment building on a higher floor to avoid another flood. He also says he's urging the rest of his family to move to more western parts of the county where flooding is less prevalent.
Lloyd Wright, a crossing guard at Dillard High, is a parent and shares custody of his daughter. He says it took him days to get her back to her mom's house because the roads were underwater.
"So when I tried to get across, forget it. Three days, four days, couldn’t get her home to see her mom. And her mom couldn’t get out neither. And she keep telling me, 'You got a truck, you got a truck!' Well, I see a tow truck turning around, what am I gonna keep going for?" he said.
An early wet season for South Florida
According to Justin Ballard, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, last week's severe rainfall may be a sign that Florida is in for an early wet season.
"The rainy season certainly can kick up, especially starting in May going all the way through October," Ballard told WLRN. "If we have an early start to the rainy season, which is kind of the worst case scenario for parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, that's just going to continue piling on the water."
There may be a link between warmer temperatures caused by climate change and heavier rain events, he said. As the atmosphere gets warmer, places like Florida may start to see more severe rainstorms, with the wrong set of conditions.
On a more positive note, Ballard added that the return of the El Niño warm temperature phase in the Pacific Ocean, this year's hurricane season might not be so bad.
"If you're looking for kind of a bright side, there is a little bit of a link between El Niño and a lesser hurricane season. So maybe it won't be quite as active [as the last few years," he said.
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