Woman fulfills promise to dying mother, stays on Withlacoochee River prior to crest

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – For Deborah Garcia, getting in and out of her home along the Withlacochee River requires a special uniform of sorts, waders and jeans.  

The homeowner who lives near the Hernando-Pasco border admits that life has not been easy as of late.

In fact, she shakes her head and chuckles when she talks about it.

“This is not a way to live, going in and out like this,” Garcia told us while gesturing to the flooded, rising waters that surround her home. “People don’t realize what it’s like when you have to do this, until they see you traipsing through the water. I don’t know if I’m going to meet an alligator or snake. I have an alligator behind the house.”

The flooding is so bad that the gator has taken up residence on her back porch, a 12-foot creature that now has a name, Henrietta.

Garcia can’t believe how bad it’s been and how bad, she feels, it’s going to get.

However, she stayed here for one reason.

Garcia promised her dying mother that the property along the river would remain in the family. In fact, that final wish before her mother passed is a vow Garcia will not break.

“My mother lived here for a very long time,” she told News Channel 8. “I took care of her here until she died and then I promised I would take over and stay here.”

But, as the waters rise along the Withlacoochee River, so do Garcia’s worries.

She is scared of what will happen to all of the homes and those who live along the water.

“I think it’s hard for everybody here. Lots of people have lost their places here, and these are people I know and care about. So, it hurts me too.”

Nick Randazzo owns property nearby and knows exactly how Garcia feels.

“It’s just bad,” he told us. “I’ve never seen it this bad.”

The Withlacoochee River is expected to crest Wednesday. So, Hernando County Emergency Management announced that the Enrichment Center, located at 800 John Gary Grubbs Blvd. in Brooksville, will now be designated as a host shelter for Withlacoochee River evacuees.

The river reached major flood stage at the Trilby gauge and is currently at 17.55 feet. It is expected to crest at 17.7 feet on Wednesday. The crest is expected to last at least two days before the river begins to recede.

For Garcia, she is watching the clock and waiting, all for while, hoping for the best for her life on the river.

With a heavy sigh, she said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen. But, since they said it supposed to crest tomorrow, then hopefully it’s supposed to recede. It’s going to take a little time for it to leave, but hopefully that’ll be it. Then, will be back to normal.”

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