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Jacksonville, Fla., Faces Historic Flooding After Hurricane Irma


Irma's hurricane-force winds and relentless rainfall caused a lot of destruction where the storm made a direct impact in southern Florida. But for cities hundreds of miles away and along the East Coast - Jacksonville, Savannah and Charleston - it unleashed a storm surge that's left millions without power. NPR's Brakkton Booker reports on the recovery efforts in the Jacksonville area where flooding was at historic levels.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: Sam Ward is clearing tree limbs, leaves and silt from front yards and driveways in the Jacksonville neighborhood of San Marco.

SAM WARD: All three of these houses are my customers'. They have a swimming pool that was totally underwater. And then this house right here - the water was all the way up to the bottom window.

BOOKER: That house he's referring to belongs to Marla Anderson.

MARLA ANDERSON: Yeah, it was scary for a while - not going to lie.

BOOKER: Anderson's house sits on Marco Lake. It's a small body of water that feeds into the St. Johns River. The National Weather Service says the storm surge set a new record for flooding. Some areas got just under 6 feet. Anderson says when the water began to seep into her home, there was a mad dash to get things off the main floor.

ANDERSON: Sofas, rugs, chairs, lamps, pictures. One thing I didn't see way back in the cabinet was our wedding album. We've been blow-drying that today.

BOOKER: Anderson considers herself one of the lucky ones. Jacksonville officials say 356 people had to be rescued yesterday. As of this morning, a third of Duval County residents, which includes Jacksonville, were still without power. Some streets were still underwater, like a section of San Marco Boulevard. Sheriff Deputy Chafin parked his squad car at the water's edge to keep people from passing through.

TIM CHAFIN: We had a lot of people that tried to make it through. And their cars all blocked the road. But it's still pretty high. We're waiting to get the road cleared. Plus, we don't want people traveling through there and pushing the water back up in the homes.

BOOKER: There's worry the water sitting in the middle of the street may be contaminated with sewage. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry says he's grateful for how residents and first responders are pitching in.

LENNY CURRY: We're in recovery mode and rebuild mode right now. But I am so grateful for what occurred yesterday.

BOOKER: Jacksonville utility JEA says it has 500 crews working around the city to help restore residents with power. Brakkton Booker, NPR News, Jacksonville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.
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