GIFFORD, Fla. — October's record-breaking rainfall was almost enough to raise the dead in Gifford Cemetery.
On Wednesday evening about a half-dozen buried concrete vaults were unearthed and several more were underneath inches of water. However, no caskets were visible.
Cars and trucks lined the entrance to the cemetery on 49th Street, about a mile west of U.S. 1, as the living went to check on the graves of loved ones buried there.
"It's upsetting," said Solomon Berton, whose father-in-law's grave was about 3 inches out of the ground. "This should not be happening."
Gifford Cemetery Association official Delores Hayes said October's record-setting rainfall caused the soil to loosen and the vaults to float to the surface.
"We're aware of the problem and are working to fix it," she said.
Vero Beach on Monday set a rainfall record of 3.79 inches, breaking the mark of 3.35 inches set on the date in 1965. Officials estimate 21.93 inches of rain fell in October, making it the second all-time wettest month in Vero Beach. The top month remains September 2004, with 23.01 inches.
Hayes said the water table is high and crews must wait until the soil dries to assess any damage and to return the vaults to their final resting place.
However, Faye Thornton-Williams, whose father is buried in the cemetery — his grave was not disturbed — said officials can't blame the situation on the rain.
"The water table is about 6 feet from the surface and when they buried my father I'm pretty sure they dug a lot deeper than 6 feet," she said. "This is just ridiculous."
Florida's sandy soil mixture, Berton said, should not be an excuse as professionals and cemetery officials should realize that before burying the deceased.
"You would think they would do the right procedure so this won't happen," he said
A similar situation occurred after the 2004 hurricanes, but it was worse as some vaults were floating, Gifford residents said.
"This is like having a funeral all over again," Atavias Banks said Wednesday evening as she was checking on her mother's grave. "If she was here now she would say, 'Lord, this is a shame.'"
Banks mother's grave wasn't disturbed. However, she couldn't say the same for other relatives buried in the cemetery because their graves were under water.
"Lord, have mercy," she said, shaking her head.
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