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After Hurricane Irma’s winds settled at 70 mph over Everglades City, just before midnight on Sept. 9, Robert Daffin thought it was safe to go check on his mom’s mobile home on Plantation Island.

Then the water came. A 10-foot surge of seawater carrying nearby canals’ silt and sludge surrounded Daffin’s pickup, like rapids swelling over the bridge, thrashing him against the guardrail.

Daffin, 50 — a big guy with a thick beard who drives an airboat for a living — fired off some Snapchats. “I think this is it,” he said on the recording.

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Minutes later, Dwight Brown puttered around the bend in a small skiff with Daffin’s son, Dalton. They swam to it after seeing Daffin’s video.

“I didn’t think twice about it,” recalled Brown, 27, a stone crab fisherman in town. “That’s my best friend’s dad, and he grew up with my dad.”

By then, the flood water had risen almost all the way to Brown’s second floor apartment, while Irma’s rain pounded down and wind ripped roofs from mobile homes. The surge raised boats, sheds and anything else not tied to the earth.

Brown brought the skiff under the bridge where Daffin was stranded and then climbed up to lug the man on board.

The truck didn’t make it. But Daffin did.

“Thank God for Dwight Brown,” the big guy said.  

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Everglades City Mayor Howie Grimm on Hurricane Irma recovery.

 

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