Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Alafia River reaching historic flood levels in wake of Irma

LITHIA — With water from the Alafia River lapping against the wheels of his John Deere tractor, Mike Cribbs turned the starter key.


"We're going to have to jump it," he shouted.

Throughout Monday Cribbs had watched the Alafia River creep closer to his house. By 6:30 p.m., he knew it was time to get his cars and vehicles out of the path of the rising river.

He lives half a mile from the Alafia.

"This is the highest it's been since 2004," he said. "It's rising a foot an hour."

Residents of River Drive in east Hillsborough are used to the river flooding. Most houses are built on stilts and a canoe is a must-have to live there.

But some may have been caught out by the fast rising river Monday. With the river swollen by rains from Hurricane Irma and a high tide, several homes were partially flooded and only the sloped roofs of several storage sheds were visible above the flood waters.

According to the National Weather Service, the river was at 17.4 feet at 11 a.m. Monday. It floods when it exceeds 13 feet. It is expected to keep rising to 20.7 feet by early afternoon today.

The last time it reached 20.5 feet was Sept. 5, 1935, according to the Weather Service.

Most residents know not to park cars there when a flood is likely. Neighbors typically give one another warnings as waters rise. But at least two vehicles were partially submerged and one boat had escaped its mooring and was lodged in the branches of a tree. Some road signs were totally submerged.

After venturing out to buy some food for his dog, Brent Price was shocked by how quickly the waters had risen. Returning to his home by canoe, he took in the damage to his neighborhood.

"Yeah, that one didn't make it," he said, pointing to a partially submerged house with water lapping against the windows.

Price, a plumber and electrician who moved to Lithia from Pennsylvania a year ago, said the road typically floods two or three times a year but he never imagined it could flood "this much."

"Right there is the street sign," he said, pointing to two trees. "You can't see it now."

His home is built 8 feet above street level. By 7 p.m. Monday, there was just one foot of clearance from his porch to the flood waters.

As if that isn't enough, residents on the street lost power at about 6 p.m. Sunday.

They are now anxiously watching the river to see if it will keep rising.

"If it gets up as high as they say, I'll be the only one above water," said resident Rick Klingelsmith.

With his tractor finally running, Cribbs drove out of the water, turned on his hazard lights and turned onto Lithia Pinecrest Road looking for higher ground.

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] Follow @codonnel_Times.

Alafia River reaching historic flood levels in wake of Irma 09/11/17 [Last modified: Monday, September 11, 2017 9:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Army medic (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday turned a Medal of Honor ceremony for a Vietnam-era Army medic who risked his life to help wounded comrades into a mini homework tutorial for the boy and girl who came to watch their grandfather be enshrined "into the history of our nation."

    WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23:  Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary Rose (L) receives a standing ovation after being awarded the Medal of Honor by U.S. President Donald Trump during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House October 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Rose, 69, is being recognized for risking his life while serving as a medic with the 5th Special Force Group and the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group during ‘Operation Tailwind’ in September 1970. Ignoring his own injuries, Rose helped treat 50 soldiers over four days when his unit joined local fighters to attack North Vietnamese forces in Laos - officially off limits for combat at the time.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 775062921
  2. Long day of diplomacy: Tillerson visits Afghanistan, Iraq


    BAGHDAD — Far from the Washington murmurs about his future, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to two of America's enduring war zones Monday, prodding leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq to reach out to longtime rivals.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, center, speaks Monday at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, accompanied by Gen. John Nicholson, left, and Special Charge d’Affaires Amb. Hugo Llorens.
  3. Head-on crash kills Wesley Chapel teacher and Zephyrhills man


    TAMPA — Two men, including a high school math teacher, were killed Monday in a head-on crash on Morris Bridge Road, deputies said.

  4. Pinellas sees slight increase in black and first-year teachers


    A year after the Pinellas County school district was chastised in a state report for clustering inexperienced teachers in the state's most struggling schools, the district has reported a first look at its teacher corps.

    The Pinellas County school district has taken a first look at first-year teachers in struggling schools and minority hiring, both of which ticked slightly upward.
  5. Editorial: Trump owes apology to fallen soldier's Miami family


    There is no more sacred, solemn role for a president than to comfort grieving family members of soldiers who have given their lives in service of their country. Those calls cannot be easy, and some presidents are better at it than others. Yet President Donald Trump and his administration continue to engage in a …