Astor residents continue to deal with flooding after Irma

Pastor, wife try to counter flood of water with flood of love, compassion

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – On the west side of the St. Johns River, right by the Highway 40 bridge, you can smell the sewage and dead fish that has seeped into the floodwaters.

Terry Holland is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Astor, and he and his wife have been getting to and from their home by canoe. The house is on higher ground and everything inside is dry. But the roads and yards that surround his home and his neighbors' homes have turned into inlets.

"This is one of our members that lives in Kentucky and comes down for a few month of the year," Holland said. "They're not quite underwater, but they're close."

Holland has been checking on everybody living in the waterlogged town. He still can't believe all the flooding Hurricane Irma left in her wake.

"I've been here for a couple of hurricanes and this is the worst," said Holland, shaking his head as he drove through roads covered with several inches of river water. "One of the fellas that lives close to us was born and raised here, and he says its the worst he ever saw it someone said since 1930 something."

Holland is not only checking on people in his congregation, but others, too. He said he is checking to see if they need a dry place to stay, or a hot meal, or even a bag of ice.

"Ice is the No. 1 thing they are asking for. Also electricity -- anything they can get would be good," Holland said.

During our ride along, we ran into two men -- Wes Smith and Charlie Price -- who have been trudging through ankle-deep water just to keep their generator going. They've had to dodge a couple of snakes. But so far their house is dry inside, at least for now. Their neighbors though are not so lucky.

"It is in the houses down there," Smith said. "But the people left from down their because they've been through it. We didn't expect it to get this bad."

That is why Holland and his wife have stayed behind, trying to counter the flood of water with a flood of love and compassion instead. This, despite have a dry place to stay with their daughter who lives in the Tampa area and who has power at her home.

"It looks like its getting a little better," Holland said. "But I hope the weekend doesn't bring us something else."

Weekend rains are what they are worried about in Astor, and while the water has receded a little as of Thursday night, they don't know if it will be enough to counter the inches of rain expected.

Both Holland and the Lake County Sheriff's Office said that if anyone would like to get some results for the people of Astor, they need bags of ice, they need nonperishable items and food, and they also need water. They said you can bring it to the First Baptist Church of Astor at 24731 Ann St, Astor, FL 32102. That's where the Lake County Mobile Command Center has been placed, and they can distribute it to the families in need.