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After historic floods, some Fort Lauderdale residents say they've lost nearly everything

LauderLakesMobileHomePark_DawnBeemer.JPG
Courtsey: Dawn Beemer
The Lauder Lakes Mobile Home Community near the Fort Lauderdale airport was swamped with multiple feet of floodwater. Resident Dawn Beecher says some of her neighbors lost nearly everything they own.

Some residents in the hardest-hit parts of Fort Lauderdale say what little they had is ruined, after unprecedented rains sent dangerous flash floods through their homes. Some say they're just grateful they made it out alive. WLRN's Kate Payne reports from Fort Lauderdale.

Bay Bell says she had just moved into a new apartment in the Edgewood neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale — just north of the airport. She still hadn’t finished hanging up her art on the walls.

When she got home from work on Wednesday evening, Bell said her home was already full of water.

“I left the job at 5 p.m. I got home … and it was already over. There was nothing I could have done,” Bell said. “It was already underwater.”

The water just kept coming — she couldn’t believe how fast.

According to local officials, 40 residents spent the night at the emergency shelter at the Holiday Park gym in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday April 13, 2023. The pet-friendly shelter is also housing multiple dogs and at least one parrot.
Kate Payne / WLRN
According to local officials, 40 residents spent the night at the emergency shelter at the Holiday Park gym in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday April 13, 2023. The pet-friendly shelter is also housing multiple dogs and at least one parrot.

“It was just my mattress that was above water at the worst part of it,” Bell said. “And at one point, the water was so high, all the appliances in the kitchen began to topple over. And I still had electricity. So the water is potentially … a current. So it was … really a scary situation.”

Standing outside the emergency shelter at the Holiday Park gym in Fort Lauderdale, Bell said she’s thankful that she made it out alive.

“I was rescued by Fire & Rescue … by the time they got to me, the water was so high [that with] the pressure on the front door, I couldn’t get out of the front door,” she said. “So I was literally trapped for hours and hours and hours. With no way out.”

According to city officials, about 600 Fort Lauderdale residents have been displaced by the devastating floods. The rainfall was historic — according to preliminary counts from the National Weather Service, more than 25 inches of rain was measured at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

So far, no deaths and no major injuries have been reported, according to the city of Fort Lauderdale.

"I left the job at 5 p.m. I got home … and it was already over. There was nothing I could have done. It was already underwater."
Edgewood resident Bay Bell

On Friday morning, lots of standing water was still visible at the airport, though flights had resumed. All Broward County Public Schools were closed Thursday and Friday as staffers tallied the damage and cleaned up the mess — though district officials plan to reopen on Monday.

Plenty of roads remained underwater on Friday, including some of the streets leading to the shelter at Holiday Park, which is being managed by the American Red Cross.

Inside, dozens of cots line the floor of the gym — where families, dogs and at least one parrot have been taking shelter.

South Florida was already facing an affordable housing crisis before this week's historic floods. Without flood insurance, some displaced residents say they can't afford to repair their homes and have no idea where they'll be able to live next.
Courtsey: Dawn Beemer
South Florida was already facing an affordable housing crisis before this week's historic floods. Without flood insurance, some displaced residents say they can't afford to repair their homes and have no idea where they'll be able to live next.

The water kept coming up

Among the displaced residents there was Dawn Beemer, who was grateful to have a dry place to stay. She was at home at the Lauder Lakes Mobile Home Community near the airport when the water started rising.

Dawn Beemer says her mobile home near the Fort Lauderdale airport took on a foot of water -- despite being four feet off the ground. She estimates the damage to be about $50,000 -- an amount she cannot afford. Still, she says she's trying to stay grateful.
Kate Payne / WLRN
Dawn Beemer says her mobile home near the Fort Lauderdale airport took on a foot of water -- despite being four feet off the ground. She estimates the damage to be about $50,000 -- an amount she cannot afford. Still, she says she's trying to stay grateful.

“I’m watching it, watching it, watching it ... [and I'm thinking] 'There’s no way it’s going to come up!'” Beemer recalled, adding that her home sits well above ground level. “We’re four feet off the ground! It’s never flooded four feet off the ground before.”

But the water kept coming up.

Ultimately, Beemer says she got 12 inches of water inside her home. Beemer, two of her neighbors and their two dogs hunkered down and waited for the sun to come up — their feet dipping in the water all night long.

“My friends?” Beemer said, “their house is gone. There’s no repairing it.”

The neighborhood was inundated. Photos of the trailers look like they’re floating in a lake.

“It’ll probably be $40,000 to 50,000 to get everything fixed, mildew removed and all that stuff,” Beemer estimated.

Asked if she’d be able to pay down that kind of price tag, Beemer said, “of course not!”

"It’ll probably be $40,000 to $50,000 to get everything fixed, mildew removed and all that stuff ... It's not doable for anybody that's in the community. Nobody."
Lauder Lakes Mobile Home Community resident Dawn Beemer

“It’s not doable for anybody that’s in the community,” she said. “Nobody.”

None of her neighbors have flood insurance, Beemer says. And she’s getting worried about the ones who are still staying in their water-damaged homes, like a disabled neighbor she said she checked on Friday morning.

“He was like, 'Why are you checking on me? I’m ok!'” she said.

But in the South Florida heat, conditions in the waterlogged trailers will deteriorate rapidly.

“What’s going to happen now though is the heat’s picking up and it’s going to be stifling because their air conditionings will not work,” Beemer said. “And then the mold is going to start.”

South Florida was already facing an affordable housing crisis before this storm. Beemer says she has no idea where she and her neighbors will go next.

Kate Payne is WLRN's Education Reporter. Reach her at kpayne@wlrnnews.org
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