About two years ago, the Northwest Jacksonville community of Ken Knight Drive experienced flooding like it had never seen before. Several feet of water spilled into homes from the nearby Ribault River during Hurricane Irma.
Today, some residents are worried about the water Hurricane Dorian could bring.
During Irma, Alton Gordon jumped into action getting his neighbors to higher ground with the help of his small boat and paddle. At the time he estimated he helped 17 people escape danger.
“I got my children to safety up there and then from then on people was calling for me so I started just helping all the people in their yards,” he said.
His own home was flooded too, caked with a black sludge.
The mostly low-income area is made up small side-by-side homes. An entire year post Irma, some homes still had tarped roofs and boarded windows. Nonprofits were helping residents get their homes back up to par.
Tuesday, Gordon was riding around the neighborhood in a golf cart asking neighbors if they needed more sandbags or water bottles. A father figure in the neighborhood, he’s known as being the guy who builds bicycles for kids. After Irma, he fired up his grill to hand out hotdogs.
Ahead of Dorian, he had his boat out in his front yard, ready to go. His home being right across from the Ribault River, he doesn’t think sandbags would do much for him if it spills over again.
“Sandbags ain’t going to do nothing for me,” he said. “I’m just going to be in a mess again if it does come up.”
When asked if he was nervous about Hurricane Dorian, Gordon said it actually just makes him more sad than nervous.
“It can come and make a mess again,” he said. “After all that sludge, that black sludge, oily like stuff come from that water, it’s all in your house and then you got to cut all the walls out again.”
Much of the Ken Knight area is located in a mandatory evacuation zone ordered earlier this week, but Tuesday, just a couple hours before the mayor advised it was too late to evacuate, and instead people should shelter in place, Ken Knight Drive wasn’t even close to vacant.
“Most of them don’t really have places to go and they’re actually like stuck,” Gordon said. “Some of these people ain’t got a car. What are they going to do? Are they going to walk to safety?”
He added, most people are trusting the storm won’t be too bad.
According to National Weather Service meteorologist Angie Enyedi on Tuesday, the storm surge from Dorian could be around 5 feet along the coast. But she doesn’t expect to see the type of inland flooding that came with Hurricane Irma, with just about 2-to-3 feet of storm surge expected in some areas.
Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.