It’s been more than two weeks since Hurricane Irma hit Southwest Florida. But, some people in Bonita Springs are only now able to return to their homes, as flood waters are finally subsiding.
The Imperial River in Bonita Springs crested during Irma and flooded nearby neighborhoods. Some are still water-logged.
On Saunders Avenue, just a few blocks away from the Imperial River, people are just returning to their homes this week, now that the flood waters are receding. Every house on this street has furniture and other belongings out on the curb.
Andy Vo recently returned to his home.
"I’m cleaning out my house," said Vo, as he took out soaked furniture.
There are no walls in the house he's rented for over two years.
"My landlord came and rip it off," he said. "I feel mad. Depressed."
Vo will live with friends for now.
The South Florida Water Management District’s Phil Flood said a lot of the areas that flooded are low-lying older neighborhoods in the floodplain that lack drainage.
But, Imperial Parkway, which is adjacent to Andy Vo’s street, has drainage ditches and gutters along the roadway — and the area still flooded.
Flood said there are a few reasons why.
“Their system is plugged up and is not draining properly," he said. "Or, it’s trying to drain into an area that is already flooded."
In Bonita Springs, at the corner of Imperial Parkway and Saunders Ave., an improvised donation center has popped up under five tents.
Peter Lance started this donation center after his house was damaged. He said he got 6 inches of water in his home across the street from the tented donation area. He took out his drywall and turned his attention toward helping others.
“We have diapers, canned goods, clothes, pastas, red sauces,” Lance said. “We live in this neighborhood, so we’re trying to give back to the community.”
Phil Flood said, right now, there’s a short-term solution in place to drain Bonita Springs.
“We’re manually moving water from one water shed into another," he said. "We can take a little bit of the pressure off the Imperial, so that those water levels will drop a little quicker."
The pumps responsible for taking water out of Bonita Springs, located on Bonita Beach Road, are channeling water through a ditch toward the Cocohatchee River, which will then go to the Gulf of Mexico.
As for a long-term solution, Flood said Bonita Springs and Lee County are looking at ways to make improvements to the region’s drainage since flooding is a problem even without a hurricane.