Hurricane Ian’s Aftermath – Record Flooding at the Downtown Sanford Marina & the St. Johns River


Just a few short days ago, I ended our Hurricane Ian experience on a positive note with only slight mention of water rising here at the Downtown Sanford Marina where we are aboard our boat.

The public ramps across from us completely under water.

Oh, how I’d love to rewind to those innocent days where a little water on the streets was all there was to be concerned about.

Talking to dock mates who had been here post-Irma five years ago, we thought we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Another 6-10″ was predicted then of rise.

And I don’t think our minds were really grasping just where all that water would go.

And conditions have now far exceeded what happened after Irma and Faye.

We have now broken a record flood from 1953, and Lake Monroe is at 8.74′ above sea level (normal is more like 2-3′). We’re supposed to crest to 8.8′ tomorrow (update, we’ve already passed that – and it’s now predicted at 8.9′).

So first, let’s start with some before pictures – these taken by Chris during our first visit to Sanford back in 2019:


Now these photos taken just last night (October 5) by Sanford local photographer Reg Garner shows the contrast.  Look closely for all the spots that used to be land.

The navigable portion of the St. Johns River – Sanford to Jax.

I gotta say, even living in the middle of all of this (you can see Y-Not docked across from the big yellow not-so-dry-now storage building) – it boggles our minds the sheer force of nature and water.

Just why is this happening?

Hurricane Ian dropped 15-20″ of rain when he was over Central Florida. It initially caused localized flooding that has now drained into the St. Johns River – which starts around Vero Beach and very slowly flows up to Jacksonville. It was already at flood stage before the storm.

The entire river is swelling as a result, and communities all along the 310 mile riverbed are impacted.

Sanford is along Lake Monroe, which is one of the lakes midway in the river chain.

What’s Life Like in a Flood?

So, let’s start with what we have going for us. If you’re going to experience a flood – a boat is a great place to do it. They float. Well, they should anyway.

Pano taken from our dock gangway.

And as long as the flood doesn’t go higher than the pilings of our floating docks – which is not predicted at this point – we can remain at dock.

We also have decent weather ahead with no rain in the forecast and temperate sunny weather.

Which are good things. Because the marina has shut off power and water to the docks as a preventative measure. And the sewer is underwater, so also no pump-outs.

They’re concerned about the transformers being underwater and the tension on the feeds with the docks going in directions they weren’t designed for. The marina office is now flooded too, so staff just occasionally checks in now.

And, our sea and break walls are all underwater offering little protection should there be high winds.

Thankfully for us, it’s just like living at anchor except at a dock. As intentionally active cruisers, we’re designed for this.

We have solar, generator, large water tanks and a composting toilet. And thankfully, the marina bath house is still dry so we can use that. So really, in that respect – it’s not a big deal. Most our dock neighbors here however are not setup for off-grid living and have abandoned ship.

Leaving us to keep an eye on things.

Getting to Land

Standing on ‘land’

Now here is where things get.. well.. let’s go with the word ‘fun’.

See all that water in the middle of the island that was once a parking lot and land?  That’s our way out of here. The city has been laboriously building and maintaining a dirt berm single land road.

We just have to get to it. And our parking lot is now calf to knee height.

Sure.. just walk through the water you say?


Our temporary road – the city has to build it up everyday as the waters increase.

Let’s add in that the waste reclamation center up the way has overflowed into the lake too – so it’s pretty much contaminated down stream of us.

And all the critters that usually live in the water or on the shoreline are now seeking higher ground and exploring the new lake levels. This means we have water moccasins, alligators and even fire ants building floating nests.

On the plus side, we have ducks and fish swimming by our feet all the time. That’s kinda cute. The venomous snakes? Not so much.

Showing off my fetching new boots! (That’s a road behind me.)

So, just as soon as the city built us one version of the temporary road we got Blooper (our camper van) out of here and onto dry land.

With a stop first at 5 different stores to find galoshes. They’re kinda sold out here everywhere, but I found a pair for me – and our dock neighbor scored a pair for Chris soon after.

Blooper is now parked on higher ground in town with dry shoes to change into – and we make a 2-3 time daily expedition on shore by wading through whatever is the current most shallow path off our little island.

Thankfully you go just one block in, and Historic Downtown Sanford is dry and back to hopping.

We have our choice of dining, bars, ice cream, bakeries and theaters to keep us distracted. And we’ve found alternate running paths to keep our training on course (we’re gearing up for a half / marathon!!).

How Much Longer and Other Options?

Making the best of it.

Water is supposed to crest tomorrow and stay high through the weekend and then start a slow recede next week.

And by slow, I mean slow. We’ll likely have flood conditions for.. well.. who knows how long. Weeks?

Hopefully at some point it goes low enough we can get fresh water and power again.

Of course we have other options.

We could abandon ship and move back into Blooper, or move in with nearby family.

Blooper is safely on dry land (this photo taken of us leaving the island before the floods got real bad), and at the ready if we need to abandon ship.

We even have close-by friends with RV hook-ups in their gorgeous backyard who have extended an open invite.

We could also toss the lines and go anchor out in the lake. But we can’t navigate down river to more protected anchorages – because the railroad bridge we need to cross is closed too.

And we will take one of those options if things become too untenable.

For now however, it’s not too much unlike living at anchor for us.. just our dinghy to shore is our wading boots.

And compared to the disaster so many are dealing with to the west of us, it’s really hard to allow ourselves to feel anything but gratitude.


We did a live on YouTube last Saturday evening sharing about Hurricane Ian, and it was pretty well attended. So, stay tuned – we may attempt a live tour of the flood at its peak this Saturday evening.


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