Jacqueline Watson doesn’t know what to do.
The storm may have ended three days ago, but for Watson and her family, things have only continued to get worse.
Their house on the corner of Ascena Terrace and Troy Road in Lake City wasn’t flooded immediately after the storm, but as time has passed, water levels have continued to rise.
By Thursday morning, water was up to the base of their elevated house and still rising.
“I mean, I just ... what do we do?” Watson said.
Their neighborhood is particularly vulnerable to flooding. Surrounding houses are at a much higher elevation, and rainwater often drains toward their home after storms.
Every hour Thursday, according to her husband, John, the water went up as much as an inch. A four-foot fence in the backyard was nearly underwater.
As the family worked to get everything out of the house that morning, they backed a truck with a trailer attached up to the house to keep from having to wade through the water on every trip. The water had already risen to the level of the truck’s front tires as they worked. Family members crawled from one end to the other to get to dry land.
Water hadn’t gotten into the house yet, but it had nearly reached floor level.
“It’s gonna,” said Watson’s sister Cheryl Crary.
Watson’s children, 18-year-old Cody, 5-year-old Abigail and 17-month-old Alayna, were staying at her mother’s house. They had been there since it became apparent that the water wasn’t going to stop rising.
“I can’t bring my kids home,” Watson said. “I can’t even live in my home.”
The family briefly moved back into the house Monday night, but with the budding floodwaters and relentless heat and mugginess caused from the lack of power, quickly went back to stay with grandma.
As Watson’s husband and his friend Henry Richardson waded in and out of the water around the house, stopping to dump out their boots, a neighbor stood in awe of the impending damage.
“I moved from Miami a couple years ago,” said the neighbor, Jacqueline Palau. “I was there during Andrew, which was total devastation. But this is hell.
“My house got demolished at ground level after that hurricane, but we didn’t have this.”
Watson wishes more infrastructure work had been done in the neighborhood to prepare for potential flooding.
“All this could have been prevented,” she said. “Now, I don’t have a home. ... It’s unlivable. I can’t bring my kids home.”
Watson is a waitress at Denny’s. Her husband is a carpenter. They haven’t been able to work the last couple days as they try to salvage what they can from the house.
She’s also worried about water moccasins and mold infesting her home. Her septic tank, well and A/C unit were also entirely submerged by Thursday.
“We never expected it to get up to our house,” Watson said. “About three days ago, we realized it wasn’t gonna stop flowing.”
Her sister, Crary, said things need to change before the next storm.
“It ain’t the last hurricane Florida’s gonna get,” she said.