Florida River Submerges City After Breaking 110-Year-Old Flood Record

Arcadia, Florida, is 40 miles from the Gulf Coast, but parts of the city remained underwater days after Hurricane Ian ravaged the state.

When torrential rain flooded the city Friday afternoon, the Peace River crested at more than 25 feet (25.36 at one point, although the final number was not available)—breaking the record of 25 feet—set in 1912—by several inches. The river flooded almost 5 feet more from Ian than when Hurricane Irma hit in 2017. The excessive water from Ian crumbled roadways and formed giant sinkholes. The area remains flooded days after the hurricane passed.

The flooding was exacerbated when the Peace River overflowed Friday afternoon, surpassing the National Weather Service's estimates. A video from The Weather Channelshows houses submerged to the roof line. Footage shows cars completely under water.

According to a Tampa Bay Times report, Arcadia's soil isn't absorbent but a combination of dirt and sand layered on top of clay, then porous limestone. Since the rain can't be absorbed by the ground and the flat landscape lends little space for runoff, flooding has become a common occurrence in Arcadia.

Man Paddles Kayak Through Flooded Street
A resident paddling a kayak returns to his home with supplies in a neighborhood flooded by a rising Myakka River in the wake of Hurricane Ian. Arcadia, Florida, was underwater days after the storm caused the Peace River to overflow its banks. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rescues were coordinated between good Samaritans, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, National Guard members and others, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The report said the flooding was slower than areas near the coast and storm surge wasn't a factor, so many residents had time to evacuate before flooding made the roads impassable.

The city is familiar with flooding. A week before Hurricane Ian hit, storms caused the river to overflow, closing the Peace River Campground to visitors. The campground sits along a mile of riverfront in Arcadia. After Hurricane Ian, campground staff posted a message on Facebook informing visitors that it would be closed until further notice.

"We don't have any way to handle cancelations and refunds as we have lost the entire campground to the flood," the post said. "We don't have computers or power as it's all under water."

A later post shared before and after pictures of the hurricane's devastating effects. In one photo, floodwaters surpassed the first floor of the campground's main building. Other photos showed floodwaters drowning roadways.

Water began rising September 30. Posts from the campground told campers that any property they had on the ground was underwater.

"The water is to the ceiling in the office. … We got (most) our staff out to higher ground. Thankfully everyone is alive! We tried pulling campers to higher ground but the river was just too high. It's catastrophic devastation," the post said.

The post went on to say that many of the staffers are now homeless.

"Ultimately, we're all alive and that's what matters most," the post said.

The river supplies millions of gallons of drinking water to Arcadia residents. It also is popular for canoeing, and fossils are often found along its banks.

Newsweek reached out to the Peace River Campground for comment.

Peace River Flooding Arcadia Florida
Surrounded by floodwater from nearby the Peace River, Summer Lempanau uses a kayak to deliver food to workers at her business, the Peace River Campground, in the wake of Hurricane Irma on September 12, 2017, in Arcadia, Florida.