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St. Johns River finally drops below flood stage at Astor

The National Weather Service monitors levels on the St. Johns River at several points, including Astor.
The National Weather Service monitors levels on the St. Johns River at several points, including Astor.

For the first time in more than three months, the St. Johns River at Astor in western Volusia and northern Lake County has dropped below flood stage.

The National Weather Service reported Tuesday that the river had been above flood stage since Sept. 16.

Then heavy rains from Hurricane Ian and, later, Hurricane Nicole made the situation much worse, causing the river to flood riverside communities.

The northward-flowing St. Johns crested at Astor on Oct. 1, breaking an 89-year-old record. On Nov. 10, as Nicole came ashore, the St. Johns rose again.

Jimmy Orth, executive director for the St. Johns Riverkeeper, said it took a long time to subside in part because it flows so slowly.

"It only drops about 27 feet over the entire 310-mile length of the river," he said. "So it's about an inch a mile. In some places the river's literally flat."

Orth said wetlands that protect communities downstream from flash flooding slowly release their water back into the river.

He said people will need to adjust as climate change brings more frequent and intense rain events.

"We're going to have to learn to adapt and live with water," Orth said. "In some places they may have to retreat from the shorelines. There may be places that the state needs to buy out and we just allow it to be a natural area as opposed to an area that's built with homes and businesses."

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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