‘It’s all gone.’ Families devastated after losing their homes as a Broward neighborhood went under
North of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is a small neighborhood called Edgewood — a few dozen blocks of suburban homes tightly packed together.
A close-knit community of smiling, working-class people helping each other.
This corner of Broward County, where you can only blink, has become one of the hardest-hit areas in a four-day stretch of torrential downpours and flash flooding.
Dozens of cars stalled as flood water seeped over their hoods. Houses partially submerged and filled with water ranging in height from a few centimeters to whole feet.
Early figures show that Fort Lauderdale near Edgewood received more than 2 feet of rain Wednesday after several days of heavy rain — historic amounts for a storm of 1 in 500 years, the National Weather Service said.
READ MORE HERE: Chest-high water, lifeboats called after ‘unprecedented’ rains in Fort Lauderdale area
Denis Menedez, a 32-year-old mother, just moved into the community three weeks ago.
A new stove ready to be installed, a TV mounted on the wall with stickers still attached and freshly built furniture adorned their home.
After a hard day’s work, she tumbled into bed on Wednesday and dozed off without thinking twice as a downpour lingered outside. She woke up to her husband Isain Lopez and told her something she said she never imagined.
“The water is starting to seep in,” he told her.
The couple, with the help of their 15-year-old son Santiago, began lifting all of their belongings and furniture off the ground – but the waters kept rising.
When centimeters turned into a 30 centimeter high flood, they knew it was time to evacuate. They stuffed what they could into the car and drove to a friend’s house a few blocks away.
“I never expected something like this to happen,” she said in Spanish. “I have never experienced such floods.”
The next day, the trio nearly walked the mile-long trek through the flooded streets of their communities to retrieve much-needed belongings they had left behind.
When she opened her front door, water spurted out, pushing a small black and white rat into her flooded driveway.
She slipped into her entryway, almost fell, and solemnly stomped into the kitchen to begin packing groceries from her fridge into an empty bag.
The living room and kitchen stood at least 12 inches high, with a clearly marked waterline a further foot above the surface.
She started throwing clothes together while Lopez and Santiago gathered other belongings.
The family had no idea what their next steps would be or how long the flooding would last.
“We’ll try to salvage something and look for a place to stay,” she said through tears in her eyes. “Living here for three weeks and now everything we bought, we just started, is all gone.”
A few blocks away, Erick Martinez, a 16-year-old student at Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale, spent the day kayaking down roads that turned into rivers with his little dog, Estrella.
His home was flooded, as were those of his uncle and friend, as the torrential downpour swept through the neighborhood.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen this place so flooded,” he said.
Romero Ramos was working when the rainstorm hit on Wednesday. His work parking lot began flooding, prompting everyone to head home to stem the possible damage to come.
What awaited him was something he had never seen in previous rain showers.
“We got to our parking lots and the water flowed into the house — eight to nineteen inches in,” he said in Spanish.
Ramos said he had never seen it so bad and it was the first time water had entered his home.
The next day, when there was still flooding inside and water stains staining the walls, he decided to see the situation with clarity and optimism.
“These are things that happen in life, so we have to deal with them because who is in control is God and we cannot go against his will,” Ramos said.
He’s not sure what he’ll do next as he’s never been in a situation like this, but he’s hoping the water will go down so he can start cleaning up and rebuilding.
Though he witnessed destruction and tragedy, he summed up what befell him and his community succinctly—and with grace:
“It is so, my friend,” he said. “The most important thing is that we live and life goes on…”