LITHIA, Fla. - Joe Manzella was nervous as he paddled up his driveway.
“Yep, that’s my house,” he said. “What’s left of it.”
Hurricane Irma’s impact on the Tampa Bay area sent extra water into the Alafia River. It crested overnight Tuesday and flooded neighborhoods that typically make it through heavy rain unscathed.
“Anything over 13 feet and it floods,” Manzella said. “This is over 22 feet.”
A quarter-mile down the road from his driveway, Hillsborough Country Fire Rescue crews deployed boats where residents used cars the day before. They responded to 9-1-1 distress calls from people who were stuck in their homes with pets due to rising flood waters.
“It flooded in 2004 and everybody expected it,” said Sandi Holcombe, whose parents live just down the road from Manzella along popular Lithia Pinecrest Road.
Neighbors started a Facebook post to make others aware of the unsuspected flooding. The post urged residents to help deliver leftover hurricane supplies to families impacted by the high waters. The turnout was quick and plentiful.
“We had within an hour four cars full of supplies,” said local teacher Abby Rothrock. “It’s an absolute blessing to see the community come together.”
Neighbors brought diapers, water, clothes and perishable foods, among other items, said Jessica Schweitzer.
"It’s just amazing what they’re doing," she said.