Palm Valley residents: Irma ‘way more serious’ than expected

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“It was like our house was an island in the Intracoastal.”

That was how Palm Valley residents Greg and Jennifer Anderson described the impacts of Hurricane Irma on their home after the storm battered Florida last week.

Irma – which many believed would be a greater concern for Florida’s Gulf Coast – shocked the Greater Jacksonville area with widespread, record-setting damage.

“The storm came in, and I went out and did a check at about 3 a.m. on Monday morning, and all of a sudden, the water was lapping on our back-porch steps,” Jennifer Anderson said.

Along Roscoe Boulevard in Ponte Vedra Beach, where the Andersons live, many residents woke up that day to find their homes in a similar situation. Damage was extensive along that street, which backs up to the Intracoastal Waterway, and ranged from heavy flooding to uprooted trees, downed power lines and scattered debris.

After having experienced little impact from Hurricane Matthew last year, the Andersons were among those locally who believed that their property would escape the wrath of Irma.

“Matthew, last year, they were talking about the storm surge – especially on the Intracoastal – of 10 feet, so we booked it out of town because we have little ones,” Jennifer Anderson said. “With the kids and pets, we didn’t want to stay in town last year, but then it ended up being a non-event, so this year, when they said 1 to 2 feet, we were going, ‘Okay, big deal.’”

Unfortunately for the family, the storm would end up being a big deal, indeed. After going into the weekend with multiple generators at the ready, the Andersons lost power more than a day before the hurricane even approached Northeast Florida.

“It was way more serious than we expected,” Jennifer Anderson said. “The sad part was, we were supposed to be the escape house for our friends, because nobody else had generators, we set up beds for everybody, and they were all going to come to our house, and then as soon as the power went out and our big generator went out…they all ended up having to change their plans.”

While a loss of electricity was a problem that the Andersons expected, they didn’t anticipate the flooding.

“The amount of damage that flooding does to a home in many ways is worse than fire, because it’s insidious; it gets everywhere,” Greg Anderson said. “It’s under your carpet, it can get into the tile, it’s in all the baseboards, it smells, you have mold issues and then you’ve got the problems afterward.”

The owners of AndersonGlenn LLP, a civil litigation firm with an office located in Ponte Vedra Beach, the Andersons said that their business was also damaged by the storm.

“We went over and visited our office at Marsh Landing, and the ceiling on one portion of our business had exploded down,” Jennifer Anderson said. “We had to go and clear that out and try to get our operations up and running again.”

According to Greg Anderson, who has lived in St. Johns County for decades, Hurricane Irma was about as bad as it gets for the First Coast.

“In my 50 years here, I haven’t seen the devastation of a [Hurricane] Katrina, but I would say that Irma has done more real damage than any hurricane I have ever seen in the time I have lived here,” he said. “It’s put more people at risk, and it’s caused more concern and anxiety than I remember in any other hurricane.”

Hurricane Irma, which at one point reached the strength of a Category 5 hurricane, was only a Category 1 storm when it swept through Northeast Florida, yet it still left historic damage in its wake. After having experienced some of that damage firsthand, the Andersons said that the next time a major hurricane comes knocking, they won’t be sticking around.

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