Volusia County families ask for help to prevent homes from flooding

Homeowner: ‘This is not a joke. This is our lives, and we need help’

ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – Bruce and Lisa Chiarizzi said they are wet, tired and angry after their home flooded again during Hurricane Ian.

“This is not a joke,” Lisa Chiarizzi said. “This is our lives. And we need help.”

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The Chiarizzis’ home is just steps away from the Tomoka River, which flooded their home when Hurricane Irma struck Central Florida in 2017.

Since then, Volusia County Emergency Management has helped the Chiarizzis apply for federal assistance twice to raise their home off the ground in an effort to prevent future flooding.

Both times they were denied.

“We were denied by FEMA,” she said. “They said they didn’t have enough information on flooding in this area. They had to do further testing, and we should resubmit the following year.”

Monitors were placed along the Tomoka River to measure water levels as part of a study to accompany their next FEMA application.

Hurricane Ian hit Thursday, sending the river into the Chiarizzis’ home.

“Basically, we’re left here now, and this time we got 3.5 feet of water.”

Chiarizzi said she still wants the help, but she’s afraid it may be coming too late.

Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Friday at a news conference that raising homes off the ground would be a priority after seeing the damage done by floods in Central Florida.

“Just down the road from here, we have a house that’s being raised with FEMA funding as a part of the flood mediation assistance program,” he said. “There’s a similar program called the hazard mitigation grant program, which will be coming as part of this particular storm disaster.”

The Chiarizzis said they counted at least 12 other homes in their neighborhood that could use that funding. They said they remain hopeful as they salvage what they can.

“We have been trying. We are not stupid. We know we live in a flood zone. We tried to raise the house. We tried to do the right thing,” she said. “Now, we’ve lost everything.”

According to FEMA’s website, applications for the hazard mitigation grants opened on Friday.

News 6 contacted emergency management agencies in Volusia County and Tallahassee to see if the Chiarizzis would be part of this process.

Any response from the agencies will be added to this story.

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About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.