Megan Searcy stood out on her deck Thursday and watched the growing abyss in her yard crawl closer and closer to her home.
a containment pond near Searcy’s home failed during a mid-May storm, and stormwater storms from a broken drainpipe have searched the ground beneath her property ever since. A chain-link fence that marked the edge of her yard was already crumpled into the hole, and a new orange security fence separated her home from the small cliff that made its way to her apartment.
Until Thursday, no one had given Searcy any indication of where her home was immediate risk, and district officials said they were working to begin repairs soon. So for the time being, Searcy was left alone to wait and watch and care.
“It’s scary. I’m a single mother. I have three kids. I have 10-year-old twins and a 4-year-old and they’re not allowed to go out,” Searcy said. “I was afraid to water my yard because I don’t know if that will contribute to it. I also have two dogs. They can’t play. I had to take a job because what if something happened while I wasn’t here? an old mother and she is at home. … It was extremely stressful and frightening and the unknown to anything in such a disaster is terrible. “
Searcy’s home is under construction in the Cambria subdivision of Avalon Boulevard in Milton. She bought the home in September 2021, and she did not see red flags during the purchase process.
But on May 15, a storm damaged the drainage system, and the problems were exacerbated by repeated rainfall events over the past two weeks.
“I placed a work order with the county on Monday the 16th,” she said. “I got a follow-up saying that ticket was created for the subject the following Tuesday the 17th. And then of course, it just got worse from there. With the rain that happened this past Sunday, it took my yard. With it. And it just kept taking my yard and the other holding ponds … it just got worse. “
The subdivision was developed by DR Horton, and Searcy said there was initially some back and forth between the developer and Santa Rosa County who was responsible for the repairs. However, she said county staff were responsive and communicated that they had received approval to take emergency action.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Santa Rosa County officials confirmed that the pond is being maintained by the district, and the statement said they will immediately work on temporary repairs and then follow up with more permanent repairs.
“I’m probably about 10 feet away from the edge of the depot right now … they didn’t say I needed to relocate or leave the site. I haven’t seen any problems with cracks or foundations at the moment,” Searcy said. “But there is a train that also connects and disconnects that is right behind the holding pond, so that can play a factor in making the erosion go much faster over the next two days.”
Searcy posted photos and videos of the erosion in her yard to keep her neighbors up to date on the situation if they end up affected.
The posts attracted the attention of the Flood Defendersa non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides education and advocacy for citizens affected by flooding.
Chris Curb of Flood Defender, an engineer who specializes in flooding and drainage, said it is ultimately up to the county to prevent such incidents by ensuring their development codes are strong enough to protect citizens and that their departments are adequately hired to enforce the codes.
“The staffing of the district needs to be increased,” he said. “They need more inspectors. They need more engineers. They need more licensing officers to do the job they’re there to do.”
He added that Santa Rosa County had some of the weakest codes in the Landlord, despite the fact that they were rewritten just two years ago.
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“You have to have smart, strong codes that protect people, and currently Santa Rosa County doesn’t have smart, strong code. They have a weak code and it doesn’t protect people. They have 1,744 flood problem areas. Their GIS map, and that’s not even are all flood-prone areas, “Curb said. “These are a lot of problem areas in this district and they are increasing. You have a whole new subsection being built here this flood. What gives?”
For Searcy’s case, despite the stress, she takes the situation calmly and hopes her crisis can do some good by raising awareness in others.
“I do believe there is a problem with stormwater drainage in the county because of what I read and what I saw,” she said. “I know right on the street, there have been problems as well. So I think that’s the main focus that everyone has seen as a problem lately, is the stormwater drainage in all these new communities. So hopefully just bringing more awareness of this these harmful events can occur in the blink of an eye. “