Rising river threatens Florida residents in Irma's wake

Officials went door-to-door Saturday warning residents who live near the Withlacoochee River north of Tampa Bay, Fla., of the potential for record-high water levels and flooding in the coming days.

Residents told to keep an eye on rising Withlacoochee River and 'seek safety if threatened'

The rising Withlacoochee River floods the restrooms, left, and the store at the Withlacoochee River Park and Canoe Rental at SR 575, Dade City, Pasco County, Fla., on Thursday. (Cherie Diez/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Officials went door-to-door Saturday warning residents who live near the Withlacoochee River north of Tampa Bay, Fla., of the potential for record-high water levels and flooding in the coming days.

The new evacuations come as people from Key West to Jacksonville pick up the pieces after Hurricane Irma ravaged the state, leaving many still without power and school officials trying to determine when students can return to classes.

Hernando County officials said deputies, firefighters and officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission used boats to get to homes along the river to urge residents to get out as the water levels start rising, according to a news release.

Sheriff's officials said the teams were prepared to help residents evacuate if needed. At this point, the evacuation is voluntary.

The National Weather Service said a gauge at Trilby in Pasco County is at 5.9 metres, with the major flood stage at six metres.

Pasco County spokesman Doug Tobin told residents to keep an eye on the rising water and "seek safety if threatened."

'Really looking forward to starting school'

In South Florida, students in two of the nation's largest school districts still don't know when they'll return to class, forcing many Florida parents to juggle childcare as they head into a second week of recovering from Hurricane Irma.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties had hoped to resume operations Monday. But dozens of schools in the two districts — which serve almost 700,000 students — are still without power. An announcement is expected this weekend.

The uncertainty put additional stress on parents trying to return to work.

For Lori Eickleberry, 45, who owns a psychology practice with two offices in South Florida, it means dragging her 10-year-old daughter to work with her.

"It's challenging, but we kept busy with activities, some colouring," said Eickelberry, of Coconut Grove.

In some southwest Florida districts, classes were postponed until Sept. 25. In Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, students remain in limbo.

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In many South Florida counties, school has not been in session since Sept. 6.

Some parents say the worst part of the hurricane's aftermath has been the lack of options for children as many stores, pools and water parks have been closed due to cleanup efforts and no power.

Elayne Norweb, 36, says her oldest daughter got sick because of the humidity. The four-year-old girl showed a reporter her upper lip, which was raw and cracked.

"Everything feels out of sorts. Without power and AC, we have been challenged to play activities. With a two-year-old and a four-year-old, it's not always the easiest to keep them occupied. So, we are really looking forward to starting school," she said.

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Officials in Monroe County opened up U.S. 1 on Saturday all the way south to Marathon for residents, business owners, disaster workers and supply trucks. They also announced plans to let the same groups have access all the way to Key West starting at 7 a.m. Sunday.

Torres said life will be disrupted long-term for many families, especially lower-income ones.

"They are really strapped right now. A lot of families are not getting paid," he said. "This is sometimes the aspect that no one thinks of when they think of hurricanes."