PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Madeira Beach city leaders want all residents whose homes were flooded by Tropical Storm Eta to report the damage before a countywide deadline on Friday that could trigger federal help.
"The county at large is trying to meet a threshold to show that the individual communities and the collective group have enough damage that it warrants emergency declarations," said Linda Portal, Madeira Beach Comm. Dev. Dir. "That would provide additional federal funding to help with things like replacement housing."
Portal said there's another deadline in 30 days for individual declarations.
What You Need To Know
- Madeira Beach officials want info on residents' homes flooded during Tropical Storm Eta
- Eta sent water into some homes when storm blew through Bay area in November
- Citizen Damage Assessment Reporting form
Tropical Storm Eta sent 3 feet of water into some homes, with up to 5 feet of water in the streets on Nov. 11. The Madeira Beach Fire Department conducted 75 high water rescues, the storm flooded at least 360 homes and caused a minimum of $8.5 million in damages, according to Portal.
"We think there are more than that," she said. "As the days go by more people contact us and admit that they did get some water in."
Mayor John Hendricks said 75 homes will likely have to be knocked down and he expects that number to double
"We were devastated and people just don't realize it," he said. "I don't even think the authorities are aware of it. We're making the calls, believe me."
A look at the gutted kitchen and living room in Grace Ariss’ Madeira beach home (Josh Rojas, Spectrum News staff)
Mayor Hendricks said hundreds of homeowners are still cleaning up after the storm, trying to keep mold from spreading and have been left homeless.
"People are really being hit hard. They're having to go out now and stay in hotels because their homes are uninhabitable," he said. "We're trying to get elder care in here to help people out with places to stay."
Resident Grace Ariss said she had 3-to-6 inches of floodwater inside her home but you can't see the damage from outside.
"You can drive through the neighborhood and there doesn't appear to be devastation," she said. "Until you walk into a home like this and that's where the chaos is. It's inside."
Ariss said residents are having trouble getting help because Eta was not declared a disaster.
"There's no option for us to submit an application for any type of assistance," she said. "That's the big thing right now that the people of Madeira Beach really need some help."
Resident Eric Cabrera said he had up to 14 inches of floodwater invade his home and believes it's going to be a total loss.
"All of these rooms are just destroyed," he said. "There's no way that I can just sweep up and move back in. We're going to have to gut the place out."
Cabrera said his insurance company has been giving him a hard time without the disaster declaration.
"They're not aware of it. They're like we checked and there was no evacuation order, there was no official nothing," he said. "So, why would you not be able to stay in your house?"
Cabrera said his family has been staying with friends and have moved 3 times in the past week.
"We're just trying to get some awareness out there to shed some light on the situation out here," he said. "So, we can get some maybe county, state and federal help."
Mayor Hendricks organized a meeting on Tuesday at city hall with Congresswoman Linda Chaney, along with the Deputy State Disaster Coordinator for the Florida Division of Emergency Management Wesley Sapp, county and city leaders to answer questions from concerned residents.
The city urged residents to report their damage on the county website at pinellascounty.org.