Osteen neighbors along St. Johns River stay resilient despite rising waters

Homes along Lemon Bluff Road surrounded in Volusia County

Robyne Meeker is enjoying the island life. She’s up against her Osteen home on the last sliver of land not yet taken by the St. Johns River.

OSTEEN, Fla. – Robyne Meeker is enjoying the island life. She has a seat in her lawn chair just feet from the water. A breeze flows through the queen palms just overhead. But this is no tropical getaway. She’s up against her Osteen home on the last sliver of land not yet taken by the St. Johns River.

Meeker, 71, has no intention of leaving.

“Once you’re out here you just love it,” said Meeker, adding that she feels at home on the rural property she’s lived on for more than 20 years.

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“I love it out here. I want to die out here, just float me in the river,” she said with a laugh.

Meeker is taking the situation in stride. She said she can’t leave her livestock, 13 goats, a cat and her dog.

“I mean, I can’t leave them behind,” Meeker said.

The St. Johns River, which has already exceeded flood stage where it passes through DeLand, is predicted to rise more than five inches in the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.

The water started rising two days after Hurricane Ian blew through.

“I lost my water yesterday. The well is under water and it just shut off,” she added.

Her main concern is clean water for her pets. There’s a steady flow of brackish water across Lemon Bluff Road where she lives. It flows from the St. Johns River just north of her property, inching higher and higher. Meeker watches as the current moves leaves and small debris slowly past her.

“I’m watching it. I watch it during the night. I come out and look and I watch for gators. You shine the flashlight and you see their red eyes,” she said.

Brian Alexander and his son Zach are in the area to help people like Meeker. He’s been out in Osteen since last week delivering food, water, generator fuel, sandbags and anything else people might need. He’s even helped first responders check on homes.

Bruce and Lisa Chiarizzi said they are wet, tired and angry after their home, steps away from the Tomoka River, flooded again during the Hurricane River.

“You know, help people in need, bring them water. I donated a kayak to some people who were stranded,” said Alexander as he piloted his boat down Meeker’s submerged driveway.

He delivered barrels of clean water for her and her pets.

Meeker hasn’t left, but others have jumped in the airboat for a trip to higher ground.

“They don’t have access to the main road. That way they at least have a way to get high and dry so they weren’t walking through with the snakes,” Meeker said. “The snakes are a serious problem.”

News 6 reporter Mike DeForest takes a closer look at flooding in parts of Volusia County days after Hurricane Ian ripped through the state.

Alexander said helping his neighbors simply makes him feel good.

“There’s no other reason. I’m able to help so that’s what I’m here to do,” he said.

Alexander guesses there’s about 70 homes back beyond the “road closed” sign. Most are in the same situation as Meeker, out on an island, but surrounded by a sea of people who care.

“It’s unreal. It makes me have tears,” Meeker said. “People that are in Osteen, they’re just coming together and helping everybody.”

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About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.