When Hurricane Matthew threatened Jacksonville in 2016, Meghan Storck looked around her San Pablo neighborhood and took stock of what she wanted to save.
When she did the same thing this year, with Hurricane Irma approaching the Florida peninsula, her priorities had changed. Her main concern wore a diaper and needed to be strapped in a carseat.
Meghan, her husband Jon and their newborn son Luca stayed safe throughout the storm; but they returned to a home that had been severely flooded. Again. Storck, an employee at 121 Financial, said her Jacksonville home flooded with at least 7 inches of water as a result of Hurricane Irma, forcing her to live at a friend's condo for the next three weeks until repairs are complete.
The storm left parts of Northeast Florida with considerable damage, including downed power lines, bent street signs, destroyed homes and historic flooding. For Storck, Irma's wrath brought rushing water into her home from a nearby creek that resulted in damage to the basic infrastructure of her house.
"We had at least 7 inches of water in the entire house," she said. "You could see the water lines in the whole house, you can smell it."
Although her home was unaffected by wind, rising water from Open Creek in the Isle of Palms neighborhood rushed into the Storck home and ruined its carpeting, walls and furniture. Additionally, a freezer weighing over 200 pounds tipped over and started floating due to the flood waters, leading to a gas container leak that caused the home to smell like fuel. The container was originally stored to power an emergency generator.
Storck said her street was flooded with 2 feet of water, making it difficult for her husband to inspect the damage directly after the storm. When she saw the flooding, Storck said, she was "numb" and in "utter disbelief."
"We had held out hope for so long that it wasn't going to impact us," she added. "We prepared for the worst, but we didn't expect much damage."
After inspecting the flooding damage, Storck said she was in a "real panic" at first about where to live. Her immediate concern was potentially losing her nanny, a local student who has been watching Luca for the last two months.
"We didn't know where we were going to live and if we might lose our nanny," she said. "We weren't sure if she would have to travel 30 minutes to see us and if she would still be available to work. There's definitely a lot of panic before you know what's going to be normal."
Storck's infant son Luca, born three months ago, didn't feel the effects of the storm quite like the adults. According to his mother, Luca hasn't noticed the difference between playing in a backyard or a high-rise balcony. His toy starfish is his main concern.
The most difficult aspect about rebuilding after Irma, Storck said, has been leaving her home for the second straight year to live at a temporary location. Storck revealed that her friends have aided in the clean-up process by watching her baby and moving furniture out of the house. Moreover, Storck has held back tears of joy when thinking about the people in her life who have gone out of their way to help her family.
The Florida native added that returning to her usual routine as a mother and getting back to work full-time has been a challenge. Irma hit the Jacksonville area during the last week of Storck's maternity leave. Living away from home, taking care of her baby and working long hours during the day have compounded Storck's post-Irma stress level, but the mother of one has managed to juggle her life roles.
Last year, Hurricane Matthew caused Open Creek to overflow in a similar fashion. Consequently, Storck said her family will be exploring a new plan for the next storm.
This time, they're putting in tile flooring in hopes that it will survive any future floods.
"We also plan on removing one door that we don't need,” she said. “A back bedroom had a door that we didn't need so we're making it a window. We're going to seal our doors better. We're going to try to prevent this from happening again in the future.”