Merritt Island family stays grounded despite high waters surrounding home

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Carlia Alderman stood on her patio and watched as the sheets of wind-driven rain from Hurricane Ian brought puddles, then ponds, before surrounding her north Merritt Island home with a murky brown moat.

“Our house is safe, no damages to the house outside or any flooding in the home,” the 33-year-old mother of three told FLORIDA TODAY.

“But it’s like we are sitting on an island...the water is around our house in every direction, 4 feet deep in some parts,” she said.

While it seems most people are returning to normal, parts of north Merritt Island are still inundated with water, she said.

Carlia Alderman's three children go kayaking in their flooded, north Merritt Island yard.
Carlia Alderman's three children go kayaking in their flooded, north Merritt Island yard.

Swollen canal and lake

Even as flood waters recede in other parts of Brevard, the 3 acres where the Alderman family’s one-story Judson Road home sits are overwhelmed by water from a swollen canal and nearby lake.

She said the cars used by her and her husband are unable to roll through the foot-high water along the driveway, which transitions into a dirt path leading out from the residential area.

More: North Brevard route shut down due to flooding, St. Johns under flood warning after Ian

More: Flood warning issued for part of Brevard County near Cocoa along the St. John's River

The ground, where her two mini cows fed, was already waterloged by unusually heavy rain from earlier in the month.

Flood waters rose in the wake of Hurricane Ian's passage in front of a north Merritt Island home.
Flood waters rose in the wake of Hurricane Ian's passage in front of a north Merritt Island home.

Late afternoon storms, fed by the turbulent sea breezes drenched the unicorporated island of about 35,000 residents with between 8 and 12 inches of rain in some spots.

Then came Ian.

The storm was just shy of a Category 5 hurricane when it hit land at sustained winds around 150 mph on Florida's southwest coast on the island of Cayo Costa near Fort Myers and Cape Coral. As it barrelled ashore, the storm degraded to a Category 1 hurricane and then to a tropical storm as the eye took aim for Brevard County.

Brevard County Public Works crews already had five water pumps on the island, removing at least 85,000 gallons of water an hour into nearby tributaries toward the river. But officials acknowledged that as the rains from Ian came, the pumps almost became ineffective, with the water swelling because of the rain.

While life is back to normal for most people from Hurricane Ian in Brevard, some places in north Merritt Island are still flooded. Keith Alderman walks down his driveway on Judson Road. Their house is dry, but Keith and his family have been trapped in their home since Wednesday from flood waters.
While life is back to normal for most people from Hurricane Ian in Brevard, some places in north Merritt Island are still flooded. Keith Alderman walks down his driveway on Judson Road. Their house is dry, but Keith and his family have been trapped in their home since Wednesday from flood waters.

"The good news is that the waters are receding and it looks like we are in pretty good shape in the area," said Don Walker, spokesperson for Brevard County, Monday.

In Orange County, the flood waters were more intense, dousing neighborhoods and major roadways, including Florida's Turnpike, in several feet of standing water. In Brevard, the heavy rains left some residential roadways flooded from Palm Bay to Mims. There were no reports of water getting into homes, Walker said.

But despite early county efforts to divert the runoff from Ian, some neighborhoods did see ponding on the roadways and swollen canals.

In the case of the Aldermans, it meant watching as waters rose close to their paved driveway, about 20 feet from their home. There on Wednesday, Alderman, her husband and their children, ages 6,8 and 10, waited as the intense storm pummeled southwest Florida.

'Howling Rain'

Then came the howls from the storm and the sound of the rain beating against the house.

“We stayed in place but were a little nervous anticipating Ian’s arrival. The ground was already saturated but there were no evacuations,” Alderman said, whose wood-framed home is a few miles south of the Kennedy Space Center. "The house is very sturdy."

Newfound Harbor Drive on Merritt Island is still flooded. Life was getting back to normal for most people in Brevard Friday, Oct. 1, 2022, with some areas still flooded.
Newfound Harbor Drive on Merritt Island is still flooded. Life was getting back to normal for most people in Brevard Friday, Oct. 1, 2022, with some areas still flooded.

The family at one time lived in Hollywood, Florida.

“We have not had flooding like this before. During the storm, I was keeping an eye on the water and watching it come up and up and really got concerned it would get into our home, ” she said.

No doubt alligators and snakes, common sites along some of the canals and wetlands of the island, were in the water, she said.

"I've already caught a bass fish out here. You can see the fish coming up and my kids have been out kayaking," she said. "My husband even waded out in the water trying to save some of the fish that got stuck in the fence."

Alderman said neighbors told her other residents may be using pumps to push the water from their properties.

"We need better pumps and drainage systems in place," Alderman said, "and we need them yesterday."

Dinner ... and hope

Neighbors with a Jeep were able to course through the waters to get groceries to the family.

"All of the hurricane snacks are gone, including chips and cookies. Now we're on to cheese sticks and the bottom of the barrel," Alderman said, laughing.

Her children are homeschooled.

Hurricane Ian left several feet of standing water surrounding a North Merritt Island home.
Hurricane Ian left several feet of standing water surrounding a North Merritt Island home.

Dinner for the night: spaghetti and meatballs.

The hope for Monday is that the waters will recede further and dissipate, even as weather forecasters talk about increasing rain chances arriving for the Space Coast on Tuesday.

Alderman said the flooding has only solidified plans the family has of leaving the Sunshine State, its beaches and penchants for the occasional hurricanes for the quiet mountains of Tennessee.

"I've just never seen anything like it," she said of the flooding.

"We're just trying to make the best of it."

J.D. Gallop is a Criminal Justice/Breaking News Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallop at 321-917-4641 or jgallop@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @JDGallop.

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Merritt Island family still surrounded by Ian flood waters