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Life around Okeechobee

Downtown Pahokee, Florida which is just yards from the Herbert Hoover Dike and Lake Okeechobee.

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER, Daily News

Downtown Pahokee, Florida which is just yards from the Herbert Hoover Dike and Lake Okeechobee.

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  • Living right next to the railroad tracks, Esteban Herrera, 19, is as concerned with his quality of life as he is with the Hoover Dike which looms just behind their home. 'We're all Latin here, so we look out for each other,' says Herrera. He and his family intend to evacuate in case of a hurricane.
  • Looking from the top of the Herbert Hoover Dike, only a small seepage canal seperates a homeowner's property from the dike's base.  Government officials have admitted the dike is not breach proof.
  • Possible weak points in the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee include irrigation spillways which are maintained by sugar plants in the region.  Many are old and dilapidated.
  • Earth-moving equipment sits idle at the scene of a breach in the Herbert Hoover Dike, Lake Okeechobee, which appeared after Hurricane Wilma. The Army Corps of Engineers has been working for several years to shore up the dike along its length.
  • Rhonda Brown, owner of RB's Thrift in Pahokee, Florida, always thought of the Hoover Dike as 'just a place to go on Saturday or Sunday for an outing.' The safety of the dike didn't concern Brown until Hurricane Wilma and the flurry of rumors concerning the dike's strength thereafter. She, like most, plans on evacuating to another region of Florida in the event of a hurricane.
  • “Business is real slow,” says Jose Granados, owner of a small produce stand just across the road from the Hoover Dike. The remnants of a packing plant’s foundation, destroyed during Hurricane Wilma, sit just across the street as a reminder of the precariousness of his situation. “If a hurricane comes and takes everything, OK, I’ll move on.” Granados had several feet of water surrounding his business after Hurricane Wilma and plans to evacuate to Georgia in the event of another hurricane.
  • Some Pahokee residents feel the media hype surrounding the safety of the Hoover Dike system around Lake Okeechobee will damage property values and the well-being of the town. Situated just outside the dike walls and surrounded by sugar fields and processing plants, the town has seen better days economically.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers began fortifying the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee several years ago with boulders and rocks in strategic locations.  Despite their efforts, seepage and small breaks in the dike were reported after Hurricane Wilma, sparking a media frenzy in the wake of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.
  • Downtown Pahokee, Florida which is just yards from the Herbert Hoover Dike and Lake Okeechobee.
  • Lake Okeechobee currently resides at approximately 12.5 feet and rose upwards of 17 feet during Hurricane Wilma with residents reporting water coming over the top of the dike due to the high winds.
  • 'I'm stayin' and she's leavin',' says Ray Suggs of his wife Sandra.  The two made it through Hurricane Wilma in what was a tense day of trying to survive the storm which damaged their 1940s home. The Suggs, like many in Pahokee, Florida, live just feet from the base of the Hoover Dike. 'I'm afraid of the dike,' says Sandra.  'We could see it spraying over last year from the second floor.'
  • Charles and Carolyn Jernigan have absolutely no fear when it comes to the safety of the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee.  Charles came to Pahokee, Florida to work on the dike when he met Carolyn in 1955 and married her.  They've been in Pahokee and the same house ever since.  While they stayed through Hurricane Wilma, the two plan on evacuating to a safe location, at their own pace, in case another hurricane hits the region.  'The dike has been my back-door neighbor for 50 years,' says Carolyn.
  • More scenes from the Pahokee community, situated just outside the Hoover Dike system around Lake Okeechobee.

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