Homes underwater along Alafia River after Hurricane Irma

River swelled 10 feet above flood stage
Posted at 11:25 PM, Sep 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-12 23:25:04-04

Rainfall from Hurricane Irma is now forcing people from their homes along the Alafia River. 

According to the National Weather Service, the river crested at nearly 23 feet Tuesday afternoon, 10 feet above flood stage. 

"I’ve been here 40 years and it has never gotten this bad. Never," said Rene Sanderson, of Valrico.  

Sanderson noticed flood water creeping into her backyard around 5 a.m. In only a few hours, her home was a complete wash out inside. She was up to her waist in water. 

"Now I’ve lost everything, you know? What do you do but start over," said Sanderson. 

Many watched nervously from a parking lot on Lithia Pinecrest Drive Tuesday night as Hillsborough County Fire Rescue teams went door to door down Williams Boulevard and Rose Street, rescuing not only people but animals, too. 

We were there when they brought two abandoned dogs back to safety. And later, a group of volunteers rescued a horse trapped in the rising water. 

“My house is an inch from going in, a lot of people have lost a lot of their things," said Mike Ayala. "There’s people’s houses down there that’s completely covered in water.”

When disaster strikes, the community steps in. 

"I can not even believe how much stuff we got in such a short period of time," said Kelley Meyers, who is helping organize a donation drive for flood victims.  

Donations poured in as fast as the water rose, with tubs of clothing, food and water. It was enough to fill moving truck several times over. 

“People without power in Fish Hawk were giving their water because they knew they were in a bad situation,” said Meyers.