Breaking News
More () »

Hillsborough County residents brace for Alafia River flooding

The river levels are expected to crest overnight and early Saturday morning at 18.6 feet, just 6 inches below major flood level.

TAMPA, Fla. — While so much of the focus of Hurricane Ian's damage is on the communities hit hard in Southwest Florida, there are some areas still waiting. In Hillsborough County, along the Alafia River are residential neighborhoods. 

The river is flooded and expected to crest overnight on Friday and into Saturday morning. The crest is expected to hit 18.6 feet, just 6 inches below a major flood level.

As the hours passed on Friday, 10 Tampa Bay crews watched the river creep its way up River Drive, house by house. During that time, neighbors used kayaks and canoes to check on their homes, their neighbors and to salvage items swept away by the river.

Credit: Malique Rankin

One of those kayakers is David Wiggins. 

“Well, the water is up, but hopefully it won’t get up too much higher," Wiggins said. "It’s been this bad before, but we’re used to it."

Wiggins kayaked his daughter back and forth to their home, as well as his dogs. Wiggins' home is built on stilts. He says the rising river waters are just a part of living on River Drive. 

"So every power tool has to come upstairs, like my fridge floated to the neighbor's yard so I’m gonna have to get that before it dries up because it’s going to be a lot harder to move," Wiggins said nonchalantly.

For those that dealt with flooding from Hurricane Irma, the encroaching waters bring back awful memories. 

“It was pure terror," Connie Belcher said. "I mean you would look out your window and you would see nothing but water and you’re hoping that everything you worked for, your whole entire life has not been destroyed."

Credit: Malique Rankin

In the days after Irma hit Florida, Alafia River levels rose to nearly 23 feet. Homes were destroyed. Families lost all their belongings. And many who didn't know how badly the river floods had no time to prepare. 

Belcher evacuated her home Thursday night. When 10 Tampa Bay spoke with her, she was pleading for her roommate to do the same. 

“I know what Irma did and I hope this one is not that bad, but I know it’s coming and there’s not a thing I can do except for pray,” Belcher said.

For many of the neighbors living along the river, they waited to clear out. Cars stalled out now wait for more water to rise along the tires. Some are choosing to stay and wait out the high waters. 

The river is expected to start receding over the weekend and return to non-flood levels by Tuesday.

Before You Leave, Check This Out