Irma caused damage to Safe Harbor Academy; students lost homes, now comes the rebuilding

The Safe Harbor Maritime Academy in Jacksonville, Fla. was damaged during Hurricane Irma. Now they are attempting to rebuild. Ken Amaro reports. 9/28/17

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Safe Harbor Academy for at-risk boys has been located near the St. Johns River for three decades, but has never experienced the damage like it did from Irma.

"The water had come up to here, that means it was all in the boathouse," said Jim Filmont, the assistant director of Safe Harbor. "It really limits our ability to serve the boy."

The storm surge along with a tornado shattered the docks. The concrete slabs were tossed around like matchsticks.

"The dock that was here absolutely destroyed," he said. "All the electrical conduits are torn apart, concrete broken to pieces, this isn't safe at all."

The storm's aftermath is now teaching students a new lesson about life.

"I didn't believe it at first," said Anthony Rivera.
 
Rivera, 18, is from Connecticut. He lived on a boat, like most of the students do. But, a boat sank.

"I looked down and there it was," Rivera said. "It was down there until Saturday when we used that crane and divers to pick it up."

Filmont said half of the Academy's 30 boats were damaged by Irma. Now, they have to move them or get rid of them.

"We're pulling the ones with holes in them and the ones that if you left them alone, they would sink we're pulling them out," he said.  

There's a wooden floating dock where some of the boats are tied to, but even that dock is barely holding on.

The students using boats and ropes moved it to realign with its former position. It was a  tedious and dangerous
process.

Now that there's a Nor'easter in the forecast, they're concerned. 

"We get 25 to 30 phone calls a day of people looking for a place for young men," Filmont said.

The storm has already suspended their academics a few days, and more damage will further delay their rebuilding efforts.

"We really feel like we're not doing the best we can be doing, but we can't right now," Filmont said. "So we want to get this handled so we can get back to the service of serving young men."

What they need are very large cranes to remove the debris, and funds to build a new dock.

They've started a campaign and it is getting some attention. To donate, click here.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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