Severe flooding and wind gusts aren’t the only concerns for residents of Northeast Florida during a tropical storm or hurricane.
People who live near a stream or river may also have to deal with wildlife. After Hurricane Irma in 2017, snakes and alligators were sighted along Ken Knight Drive after the Ribault River overflowed.
Five years later, residents are still talking about the river critters washing up in their front yards.
“The alligators, all up here and down in the wharfs. Children couldn’t come out because of the water, but even after the water was gone, you were afraid to let your children outside,” recalls Sabrina Moneya.
In Lakewood, many people live along New Rose Creek, which is known to overflow at certain points during heavy rains.
Neighbors tell News4JAX that several alligators live in New Rose Creek, and we’re told the largest could be up to two meters long.
Reid Folkers is a resident who lives by the creek. He is from New York and Hurricane Ian will be his first hurricane experience in Florida.
He says alligators are a common sight in the creek.
“The biggest concern is for the children in the neighborhood,” Folkers said. “The apartments across the street have children who play in the street all the time. And we also have quite a lot of people fishing here.”
John Brueggen is the director of St. Augustine Alligator Farm. He says it’s normal for alligators to be washed up into a community during a hurricane or tropical storm.
“The animals are just as displaced as the people,” said Bruggen. “When these floods occur, they are washed out of areas where they have lived for years.”
Brueggen says when this happens, alligators become disoriented in a new environment, such as a neighborhood. He also says that they can be just as scared of humans as humans are of them, and that they can become dangerous in a new environment.
“They just don’t know where to retire, so imagine you’re being transported to a whole new place and something is coming your way. You don’t know where you are and what to do, so they can be more defensive and aggressive in that environment,” he explained.
Experts say this is why you shouldn’t try to get close to the alligator and why you definitely shouldn’t walk in flood water, as you could accidentally put an alligator on the defensive.
For the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, News4Jax has learned the farm has protocols in place to ensure potential flooding does not cause alligators to abandon the farm.
The director says they will start draining the pool water to a much lower level on Wednesday so they don’t have to worry about the pools overflowing if it rains really heavily.
The director says they also have an inner and outer fence high enough to prevent rising water from driving the alligators into the community should they experience a massive flooding event.
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