Hundreds of homes in Central Florida are still flooded as the St. Johns River – a well-known lazy river on the eastern side of the peninsula – drains idle. Historic precipitation who – which Hurricane Ian It dropped about two weeks ago.
Projections show that the river will spend at least the next week at a higher level than it has been in nearly 60 years, and the National Weather Service warns that water could remain above flood stage during Thanksgiving.
In Seminole County northeast of Orlando, more than 400 homes are “inaccessible” due to flooding, according to County Planning Director Stephen Lerner. The city of Geneva, located at a bend in a river and between two lakes, is especially flooded.
“This area is historically underwater, and a lot of the residents are staying there” in their homes, Lerner told CNN in a phone interview. Lerner wasn’t sure how many residents might actually have left due to the floods.
The St. Johns River begins southeast of Orlando and flows north through dozens of cities on the eastern side of the Florida Peninsula before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville.
The river flows through 300 miles, yet only drops about 30 feet – making this river one of the slowest in the world, according to Scott Kelly, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Melbourne.
“It’s a very lazy river,” Kelly told CNN. Very slow motion.
Kelly believes the flooding could last “perhaps a few months,” and officials expect this slow-moving disaster to creep north over the next few weeks.
Lerner said the waters in Geneva “will eventually move to the Astor region.” “It’s a very slow process.”
Astor is an unincorporated community in Lake County located on the west side of the river, south of Lake George. There is usually a two-week delay in the flow of water from Geneva to Astor, Lerner said; So they should see the water level rise soon.
But already in Deland – between Geneva and Aster – drone images show dark brown homes and businesses submerged by the river banks.
“Geneva…Both Deland and Astor experienced record flooding with this event,” Kelly told CNN. “So this is not something that no one has experienced in at least the last 70 years.”
Hurricane Ian dumped up to 20 inches of rain on this part of Florida nearly two weeks ago — a massive amount of rain that’s becoming more common as the planet warms. Scientists have shown that warmer air can hold more moisture, which drives hurricanes to increase precipitation.
It was raining Ian at least 10% due to human-caused climate change, according to a rapid analysis by scientists at Stony Brook University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The National Weather Service is forecasting more rain in the area over the next few days as a cold front slams across Florida. But Kelly said he wouldn’t push the river higher than it already is.
“People will probably freak out because it’s going to start raining again,” Kelly said. “There will be more intermittent rains and it should not have much of an impact on the river level.
Now, meteorologists are mostly concerned with preparing people for weeks of flooding.
“We’re not sure people fully understand that this river isn’t going to go down so fast,” Kelly said. “So, yes, it’s crested in most places but it’s going to stay near that or there peak for a few days and we don’t think people are mentally prepared for that.”