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At Surfside Estates and Marineland Acres, Two Flagler Communities Feel Singled Out For Storms’ Wrath

| September 14, 2017

At Surfside Estates, the mobile home community in beverly Beach, whole roofs were ripped off and slammed into the street, but the more extensive damage, which struck most homes, was the flooding. Tim Arnold, above, is sitting by the damaged house his fiancee Lorri Benson owns. Click on the image for larger view.b (c FlaglerLive)

At Surfside Estates, the mobile home community in Beverly Beach, whole roofs were ripped off and slammed into the street, but the more extensive damage, which struck most homes, was the flooding. Tim Arnold, above, is sitting by the damaged house his fiancee Lorri Benson owns. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach’s south end and midsection along Lambert Avenue are suffering from the consequences of a historic flood following Hurricane Irma last Monday. But residents of the north end of the barrier island feel like they have a target on their properties’ backs.


Twice in the last 11 months, the residents of Surfside Estates, the close-knit mobile home community off A1A by the Intracostal, have been whacked by hurricanes—first Matthew last October, now Irma. Same story for residents of Marineland Acres, the beachside, unincorporated development at the north end of Flagler that’s always had drainage issues, but nothing like the sort of flooding caused by Matthew and Irma.

Luke Guttmann, a retired real estate lawyer—he got out just in time, as the housing bubble popped 10 years ago—has the scientific proof of the price his neighborhood paid. His house sits on Rollins Drive, several hundred feet from what used to be a line of dunes. Last October he made a black notch against the wall in a utility entrance marking how high Hurricane Matthew’s surge waters went. It was 36 inches. This year no mark was necessary yet: the waterline had made its own, and when he measured it this afternoon, the floor still soggy from those same waters, it measured 28 inches.

The watermarks tell the story: Luke Guttmann shows the watermark left by flooding from Hurricane Irma, and you could clearly see the mark he made during Hurricane Matthew. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

The watermarks tell the story: Luke Guttmann shows the watermark left by flooding from Hurricane Irma, and you could clearly see the mark he made during Hurricane Matthew. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

Not as bad, but not much comfort for Guttmann or residents like him who will have to tear out and replace walls and carpets anyway, if not furniture and appliances. Guttmann’s house was built in 1982. He bought it about a decade later and built on. “I added my part,” he said. “I should have torn the thing down.”

Houses in Marineland Acres reflect something like Darwinian architecture, an evolution from rustic old houses built before the age of regulations, flush with the lowest ground, to houses built on thick concrete stilts, to still-newer houses built according to county regulation that calls for an elevated lot of at least a foot. There was a distinct difference between those elevated houses and their less-evolved counterparts, though even houses on stilts—like Carol Siboni’s on Surf Drive were not spared the lake effect below the first floor. And those waters, while receding a bit, are still there, squatting with stench and stagnation, with nowhere else to go.

Carol Siboni in front of her house on Surf Drive, in Marineland Acres. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

Carol Siboni in front of her house on Surf Drive, in Marineland Acres. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

“Simple things like putting out the trash, getting the mail, it’s a two-man job,” Siboni said: it takes getting in the car, one person drives, the other holds the garbage bag, the car backs out across the front-yard’s mini-lake, the garbage is deposited, the nail picked up, the car driven back in. The Sibonis’ puppy, not yet a year old, hasn’t taken to being confined. “He’s an 8-month-old puppy, he wants to play, he can’t,” Siboni said. For his daily business, he’s limited to tiny patch of grass in the backyard. “But we’re the fortunate ones. The people on the ground are just devastated.”

But Siboni said something that’s beginning to be a refrain of long-time residents no matter where they have been struck by flooding, whether at the southernmost end of Flagler Beach, halfway up on Lambert Avenue or at the near-northernmost end of the county: “We bought this house 20 years ago. It never happened before Matthew,” she said.

Water pumped out of ditches in Marineland Acres dumped into the ocean. There are no dunes left. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

Water pumped out of ditches in Marineland Acres dumped into the ocean. There are no dunes left. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

Surges are overtopping dunes on the ocean’s side and simply washing over on the Intracoastal side as they never had before. On the ocean side of Marineland Acres, the dunes are gone, anyway. Guttmann says Matthew wiped out some 20 feet of them last year, and Irma wiped out another chunk. When you walk to the ocean, there’s no ridge anymore, no sign that any dunes were ever there before. It’s a level plane from the Marineland Acres neighborhood to the beach, with just a slight incline down to the surf. That’s an ominous sight. It may not take much—it may not take a hurricane, but a strong storm–for the next flood to wash over Marineland Acres. And rising seas are not helping.

At the entrance to the neighborhood on Surf Drive, a woman came out of her older home, flagging down a reporter because she mistook him for someone from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Five minutes later, a woman driving by did the same thing: that’s how desperate the neighborhood is to get its federal assistance.

at 5 Surf Drive in marineland Acres today. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

at 5 Surf Drive in Marineland Acres today. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

The woman coming out of 5 Surf Drive didn’t want to be identified but didn’t mind having her property photographed or filling in its recent history, though water filled in most of it: the house sat in the middle of a knee-deep lake. She’d bought the house in 1988, but she was flooded out during Matthew. “I still got bruises from Matthew, now this one,” she said, showing her bruises. “I can’t take it anymore. I’m done. I’m out of here.” She wondered out loud how much she could sell the property for, but wistfully. She loves the neighborhood. “It’s beautiful. It’s a great neighborhood.” She has plenty of family in properties around her.

But she was in a rollercoaster sort of mood about it all. She looked up at the trees, what must’ve been a thick, lush canopy that shaded house, street and sky, all bare now: the trees are dead. All of them and all other vegetation too but the palms, killed by Matthew’s floodwaters. The trees now stand there, limbs of gray scratching at the sky, missiles weaponized for the next hurricane.

You couldn’t hear the surf but you could hear again and again the sounds of water pumps competing with the sound of electric generators, one kind belching fumes the other vomiting what looked like raw effluent from the ditches or from yards and dumping either in the road or out to the ocean.

The sign Debbie Whitlock spray-painted this morning and placed outside her home at Surfside Estates in beverly Beach. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

The sign Debbie Whitlock spray-painted this morning and placed outside her home at Surfside Estates in beverly Beach. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

You could hear the same sounds and see the same straight-to-the-street sights in Surfside Estates, which was devastated by flooding as much as South Flagler Beach was, and more: the city’s buildings withstood the winds the way the mobile homes of Surfside Estates did not. On Merrimac Way, in the heart of the community, there was an entire roof, twisted beyond recognition and broken in two parts, sitting in the middle of the street in a grotesque mound early this afternoon, blocking the way. Firefighters had come by to break it down, but the job proved too much for crews used to tearing open vehicle doors or roofs. So the mound sat there, and all around it, residents were busy cleaning, drying, planning, rebuilding. Every homeowner-at least those who were there—told the same story of the Intracoastal’s waters rising up way more than they did during Matthew and in consequence doing way more damage to home after home than Matthew had. By one account, the entire community was flooded, whereas during Matthew the waters rose only about four or five rows of homes in

“The waters came up a foot and a half this year,” Rich Morey of 88 Merrimac said.

'The waters came up a foot and a half this year,' Rich Morey says outside his home, which he plans on replacing entire. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

‘The waters came up a foot and a half this year,’ Rich Morey says outside his home, which he plans on replacing entire. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

“Last year,” his wife Kate said, “we lost a lot of stuff in the porch and the garage but nothing else.” She spoke as she stood outside by the pile of things she and her husband lost this year: their furniture, their appliances, their floors. Everything. And they had just redone the kitchen. “We’re thinking of tearing it down and putting up a new one now.” She was referring to the entire mobile home.

Rich had been researching it. “You know what we just found out?” he said. “Even if you order it today, you can’t get a new home for six to eight months. The water is going to cost us five times more than the last one.” Meaning Hurricane Matthew.

And yet the Moreys, like their neighbors, have no intention of leaving. They love their Surfside community. If they’re rebuilding, that’s where they’re rebuilding. “It’s such a wonderful neighborhood, this is the best street, you can quote me on that,” Kate says.

The shredded houses of Surfside Estates. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

The shredded houses of Surfside Estates. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

Lori Benson—a member of Flagler’s Turtle Patrol–was contending with Irma’s demolition act in her own home across the way. The hurricane lifted her roof but did not 1move it more than enough to let in the rain. “Rain ravaged our insides,” she said, with all the duct work filling with water. “Last year I had all the tin on the road. This year was the water. It was up to the white fence this year, that’s the problem.” The white fence is at the A1A entrance to the community opposite the Intracoastal side. And all this happened just as Surfside Estates had built back up from Hurricane Matthew.

Benson walks to a house next door. “See all their furniture out? They haven’t even owned it for three months.” The flooring was caving in in various places. It would all have to be replaced. “This is what all of them look like.”

In front of Debbie Whitlock’s home it looked like half the interior had been placed on the street for removal. A hand-sprayed sign sat out front, too: “YOU LOOT WE SHOOT KEEP OUT.” She’d spray-painted it this morning. “We were destroyed last year, we lost the whole front,” she said, along with the roof, the duct work, the car port. She spoke as she was showing her home’s reconstructed front—with hurricane windows that withstood the storm this time, protected as they were by $500-worth of plywood, but not the water, which rose up to the windowsills. The Intracoastal, Whitlock said, “paid us a visit.”

In Daytona North, also known as the Mondex, where waters are still dangerously high, Flagler County Fire Rescue personnel from Station 71 today delivered water and meals ready to eat to residents stranded and without power. (c FlaglerLive)

In Daytona North, also known as the Mondex, where waters are still dangerously high, Flagler County Fire Rescue personnel from Station 71 today delivered water and meals ready to eat to residents stranded and without power. (c FlaglerLive)

Some of her furniture survived, and the house was being aired by a giant, $350-fan, powered by a $2,400 generator, but she wasn’t sure if her two-week old washer-and-dryer had survived. As for herself and her companion, there was no question: “We’ll be OK, we’re fixing it, we’ll be back.” Just like her neighbors, no one was giving any thought to leaving. This was home, it will still be home. “Hey,” Whitlock said, “it could be worse. It could be a lot worse.”

As she spoke, there was one other area of the county that was severely flooded, too, and that has been getting less attention that the barrier island: areas of Daytona North and areas around Dead Lake on the west side of the county. Flagler County Fire Rescue firefighters from Station 71 today, using two and a half ton trucks that can go where most other vehicles can’t, drove in there—streets and avenues like Walnut, Sherwood, Honeytree and Lancewood—and distributed MREs, meals ready to eat, to residents still without power. They distributed water, too, since water pumps dependent on electricity can’t be used for the moment.

Even today the water was still very high, the roads all but impassable.

In Daytona North. (c FlaglerLive)

In Daytona North. (c FlaglerLive)

In Marineland Acres, shredded but still standing. (c FlaglerLive)

In Marineland Acres, shredded but still standing. (c FlaglerLive)

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22 Responses for “At Surfside Estates and Marineland Acres, Two Flagler Communities Feel Singled Out For Storms’ Wrath”

  1. John dolan says:

    How the County ever approved the development of this land, allowing Mondex to sell, Swampland with undrinkable water,and no roads or sewer system , is below a standard that is acceptable.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Same week .Irma takes out my house I learn .I have inoperable liver cancer and on top of that my wife accidentally throws away my false teeth at the Shelter.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sorry Beverly Beach, this is the result of living in a mobile home on the coast and down far below the level of the street. Anyone with any sense can see that water washed over A1A and heavy rain waters are going to be trapped in the hole Surfside Estates sits in, so why invest and live there? Look around people, when you see a house built up off the ground in your area, there is a good reason why. You can’t fix stupid. Maybe Flagler County will get back to how it used to be….once all the Yankee’s go back up north.

  4. Lou says:

    Answer is very simple. The real estate industry turns swamp land into a marketable property. The buyer pay twice.

  5. Anonymous says:

    When you have intercostal behind you and the ocean other side HELLO McFly wake up it is going to flood

  6. Marlee says:

    ….and more 2-3 story residential development proposed at Matanzas Shores Home Association on A1A!

  7. Flatsflyer says:

    I have put over 150 miles on my car since the storm and have not seen a single FP&L truck or any truck from other out of state power companies. There are many streets that are out because the transformer fuse has “Popped”. A very simple fix that can be done in two minutes would restore power to a whole street. Check the corner of Crazy Horse and Cochise Courts. Everyone on the street knows about the problem and has notified FP&L.

    I surprise that nobody has been killed trying to reset these “Fuses”, I know someone on the streets mentioned above is seriously thinking about climbing the pole because FP&L does give a shit about it’s customers. Talked with my kids in South Florida and FP&L crews are stumbling over themselves and up to 17 trucks where seen in a parking lot at Lester’s diner on SR 84 in Ft. Lauderdale. This storm was very minor and it shows the total incompetence of FEMA, Department of Energy, FP&L, the State of Florida, Flagler County and many others. Why isn’t any political figure complaining about the fact that FP&L has totally abandoned it’s customer base in Palm Coast? Trump and his Communist Escort have really Fucked things up Royally.

  8. Jolene dehart says:

    I was here before Palm Coast. The ENTIRE area that is now Palm Coast was SWAMP. ITT filled it in and built the houses. That’s why there are canals there. Mondex was actually here first, a rural community around the farms that have been here forever.

  9. Jolene dehart says:

    The problem REALLY is, that the area between the ocean and the intercoastal is a TINY strip of sandbar that is barely 1/4 mile wide in many places. Sandwiched in between oceans and in an area that is basically HURRICANE CENTRAL. We have a hurricane season every year. Get a clue.

  10. tulip says:

    While I can understand why people want to live next to the ocean or Intracoastal or any water way, the hazards and uncertainty of losing or getting damage to ones home over and over again, are not worth it. Mother Nature always wins in the end and she doesn’t care whether you have a mansion, regular home or a tent.l

    People are allowed to build in these places because of the lure of the water is appealing to people and the builders make a fortune not caring about what they know can happen. It’s all about money.

    I do feel bad for those people in the areas Flaglerlive wrote about but to me, if it happens once it will happen again, find another place at least where you WON’T get water and flood damage. and erosion. However, we can’t control where the hurricane blows. And the cost of insurance is phenomenal.

  11. Born and Raised Here says:

    Not a safe place to have a Mobile Park, right across the street from the beach.

  12. Anonymous says:

    This comment was uncalled for. People have lost so much yet all you can do is be hateful. Hugs to you because you certainly need it more than those of us who have lost everything because you have lost the ability to be be a human being!

  13. Cynthia says:

    Well said, anonymous. The world just keeps getting meaner and meaner. I add my hugs to the people who are still suffering due to this hurricane as well as my prayers. People, try harder not to be a jerk and the strange thing is you’re proud of it. God help us.

  14. Linda Johnsen says:

    While I am saddened to see the loses many have suffered,
    I am also wondering where the compassion is for others that
    have lost everything on the islands..The deaths of children, Houston.
    Some of the people interviewed were mellow.. Others have me
    thinking there should be a pity party somewhere. You are alive.
    Be grateful and know that what appears to be a huge mess in many
    ways, has still left you upright and wallowing will not help.
    Yes, I did lose much, yet not my life…
    Learn from the past, live in the present and dream of the future. Author Unknown…

  15. Surfside family says:

    Thanks for covering Surfside. My folks lived there for 12 years or so. After they passed, we children decided to sell their very appealing property with the Intracoastal view. Why? Because one of us noticed that the water in the river was at about eye level when he was sitting in a low chair outside. ( And none of us like heat and humidity.) We combined that with the flood and wind insurance costs, and sold out. So glad that we did that back then, after the past year’s storms.

    The people of Surfside were, by and large, kind and friendly people who looked out for my folks when they went through their various illnesses – even more so when the one was left after the death of the other. But many of them boasted about how the neighborhood and area had never had a direct hit from a hurricane – it was something about the topography of the land – and I always thought “You’re gambling, and one of these days you will lose.” I’m sorry that they have to deal with this, but seriously, it’s a sandbar in the Atlantic.

  16. Mondex says:

    I live on one of the flooded streets in the Monday. It took 5 days before we seen any type of help. If the county would just clean out the canals and actually care about us like they do in Palm Coast I would not be flooded in my house 6 days later.

  17. JohnX says:

    there are things that can be done to increase the height and strength of dunes, its just not happening in this area. perhaps this will be an event that can promote that. you have to build walkways and such above dunes, not pathways through them.

  18. Anonymous says:

    It’s now time for all the Yankees to go back where you came from

  19. Mark101 says:

    Half of the issue is the broken promises of Flagler county to start and complete the drainage project in marineland acres. They tax the lot owners for the project but do nothing to get the job done. Its a joke. Rollins drive floods even in a hard rain while culverts remain clogged . Central floods or stays flooded. The dunes after Mathew remain a joke with restoration start dates that die time after time. People are fed up with Flagler county govt cheap talk, its time for action.

  20. Cypress Knoll says:

    It’s all about your choices and lifestyle

  21. Flagler Is My Home says:

    As someone whose home sits on a canal on the Intracoastal, I’m pretty disgusted with the comments I’ve see on these articles posted on FlaglerLive. I don’t know what drives people to be so hateful in this day and age. I’m one of the lucky ones… no flooding because my home was built to newer codes so I’m quite a bit above sea level even with 6-7 feet of storm surge. Even Irma couldn’t push the water in our house unlike the majority of our neighbors. The reason? Those homes were built 30-40 years ago when building codes beachside were so lax I’m not even sure they existed. Unfortunately that’s the way it is – the homes never should’ve been built only a foot or two above sea level but it is what it is – you cannot reasonably ask someone to just dump their home and call it a loss. Storms like Irma and Matthew haven’t been common in this area even if you look at the historical tracks of storms over the last 100 years – you can’t even coy nt on one hand the amount of major storms that have hit our communities here, thankfully. Whatever is happening now is certainly eye opening and needs to be addressed but calling people names, hating the neighbors that live at the beach you likely frequent, and then calling for them to leave everything they know when many just lost everything is downright disgusting. I’m tired of the “rich people at the beach” stigma and even those that have commented that we DESERVE to lose our belongings… that’s some kind of jealousy – absolutely no other explanation for that kind of commentary.

    In regard to insurance and other costs… I pay both homeowners and elect to have flood insurance even though I don’t hold a mortgage. Unfortunately, that’s where people go wrong and there’s more than a few people I’ve talked to in this community, Jacksonville, and St Augustine that pay off their house and since FEMA or other flood insurance is no longer a requirement, they think they’ll just chance it and go without. That’s where I shake my head. Flood insurance is cheap enough in relation to the housing costs of living on the water that it should be a no brainer.

    And that leads me to the comments about beachside folks just “throwing all their stuff in the street so they can get a big fat insurance check” or something to that effect. I’m sure there’s people doing that – there’s bad apples in every community. However, I can tell you that of the houses that flooded, my neighbors had their toilets overflowing because the water backs up and starts coming out of there mixing in with the already muddy river water.. I’m not sure about anyone else but I’d be hard pressed to clean anything that potentially has a combination of the community’s fecal matter all over it among other bacteria. There was just an article about how a woman in St Augustine lost her ability to walk due to the infection she received waking in flood waters during Matthew. I mean if this stuff speaks to you, by all means have at it but I certainly wouldn’t want to take that chance in my own home.

    I really thought this community would change after Matthew but it’s only gotten worse and that is truly, truly sad.

  22. Nanci Whitley says:

    Flagler is my home , please don’t get down on the community. The vast majority are compassionate and sympathetic. A very few feel like they have to spew ugliness like these folks.

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