Deanna and Steve Knapp waded in calf-high waters while surveying the scene outside their stilted two-story home on Ramada Street in the Weeki Wachee Gardens community.
Debris and garbage cans from neighboring short-term rental properties floated down the road, although the floodwater had receded since Wednesday morning’s high tide. A green and black snake slithered past, disappearing quickly into the marshy grass.
“I don’t know where to start,” said Deanna Knapp, 53. “It’s a big, big mess.”
Unlike many of their neighbors, the Knapps decided not to evacuate. They’d been through Hurricane Hermine, in 2016, which brought about 4 inches of floodwater into their home.
“This (wasn’t) our first rodeo and it won’t be our last,” said Steve Knapp, 54, who said he considers himself a “true Floridian.”
But when the water started rising around 6 a.m. on Wednesday, the couple decided to take their 18-year-old Pomeranian, Minnie, and leave. The water was up to their hips. They grabbed their kayaks and a few coolers with food and didn’t return until later in the afternoon.
Steve Knapp estimated the downstairs of his home took about 14 to 16 inches of water.
Still, he said, he considers himself lucky.
“We could have been ground zero,” he said. “Then it would’ve been all gone.”
Many residents of Weeki Wachee Gardens evacuated prior to the storm and had not yet returned as of Wednesday afternoon.
Over on Westwind Street, Tim Beach worked quietly and alone, clearing out Christmas decorations, family photos and furniture from the downstairs of his teal stilted house.
Wearing Busch Light shorts and drinking a Busch Light, Beach, 54, said Wednesday was just the second time in 25 years his property had flooded.
Like others in the area, Beach said the water came fast, accompanying the early morning high tide.
“At 6:30 a.m., it was just on the deck and an hour later it was under my house,” he said. “It kept coming up and coming up.”
Beach said his bottom floor took on about 16 inches of water, much more than the nine inches that followed Hurricane Irma in 2017.
He decided not to evacuate when it looked like Idalia’s path had veered further west.
“I thought things would be safe in there,” he said. “But then things started floating.”
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