Mobile FEMA Recovery Centers Roll Into First Coast With More Expected In Coming Days

Sep 14, 2017

Residents on the First Coast are being encouraged to apply for federal disaster relief online or by phone after Hurricane Irma left behind damaged homes, record flooding, and power outages.

Those without internet or telephone access can also get help in person at a number of pop-up Federal Emergency Management Agency centers.


On the corner of Hendricks Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard Thursday, a FEMA trailer moved around an empty lot, following shadows so weary San Marco residents didn't have to wait in the sun. Federal workers also passed out ice cold water bottles to those waiting in line.

This mobile unit arrived in Jacksonville the day after Irma did. Crew leader Natalia Arutynov said she was in Texas after Hurricane Harvey before stopping in Tallahassee and eventually making her way to the First Coast.

“I’m one of several crews. The crews are spread all over the city of Jacksonville, as well as neighboring counties and there’s actually more coming in the next 48 hours,” she said.

Arutynov said her crew registered more than 60 people needing help in the first half of Thursday alone and expects many more in the coming days.

Joanelle Mulrain came to find out if her son and daughter-in-law qualify for federal aid after their apartment building was surrounded by water and downed trees, frying their air conditioner unit, cutting power and spoiling days of food.

“They were on the second floor, which was fine, but the whole bottom [of the apartment building] is trashed. Even the dipsy dumpster floated a block- and-a-half,” she said. “So, I’m making sure they’re all registered while they’re at work.”

San Marco homeowner Sherry Krol was ordered to evacuate before Irma hit. At one point during the storm, the alley behind Krol’s house was chest-deep in water. That’s something she’s never seen in the 36 years she’s lived there.

“I’m retired. I live over here on Naldo Avenue at the Apex of Misery. We have standing water. We have power lines down,” said Krol, who doesn’t have flood insurance.

“What they wanted for flood insurance on our house was thousands of dollars. And it’s sort of like, well, we’ve never had a flood so maybe we’re just better off thinking: how much would it cost to fix the downstairs of our house, actually,” said Krol.

Krol and her husband plan to attack the floodwater in their house with squeegees and some massive fans while they decide what to do next.   

Federal disaster assistance can cover home repairs, temporary housing, and uninsured or underinsured personal property, among other things.

A FEMA trailer is also parked at the Middleburg Public Library in Clay County and survivor assistance teams are canvassing neighborhoods all along the First Coast to make sure residents are registered.

Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.