Palatka Housing Authority sustains limited Hurricane Irma damage

After Hurricane Irma, Georgia Green returned from Atlanta to find a large oak tree resting on the roof of her Northside Palatka Housing Authority apartment of 13 years.

“I came back home, and it was just sitting up there,” Green said.

The tree blocked two of her windows. Shingles were scattered in her yard. Green didn’t have any power, and her food expired while she was gone. However, Green said, she felt blessed because some people had it worse from the two hurricanes that lashed Texas and Florida the last month.

“I just want the lights back on and this monster (tree) out of the way,” Green said. “It could’ve been worse, but I’m not staying here tonight.”

Freddie Valentine said he called 911 when he saw wires spark from the tree that landed on Green’s apartment. Valentine’s unit regained power, and he had been helping a few of his neighbors who didn’t have electricity, letting them cook and use his air conditioning.

At Annie M. Spell Senior Community Center, Vivian Thomas was trying to cool off in the shade. The heat was in the high 80s. She still lacked power and her food spoiled during the storm.

An enormous tree snapped near the base, and branches smashed through her neighbor’s roof and tangled power lines. Officials temporarily patched the hole in the roof. Fortunately, Thomas said, the woman living there did not stay for the storm.

“I didn’t know what it was,” Thomas said. “It sounded like a big crack.”

Palatka Housing Authority Executive Director John Nelson said the damage to the affordable housing areas from Hurricane Irma was costly yet manageable. There was no flooding damage to the units though some parking lots were flooded.

Nelson estimated it would cost between $75,000 to $100,000 to fix the two houses and various roofs damaged in the storm. Nelson said it may cost about $2,000 to $3,000 per roof.

“It’s nasty,” Nelson said.

Some units at Madison Court and Annie M. Spells Senior Community Center were lacking power. The Palatka Housing Authority surveyed the damage and sent a report to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nelson also hoped for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the process will take time.

“We’re relatively lucky from this storm and from (Hurricane) Matthew,” Nelson said. “But these two trees are the worst thing we’ve seen.”