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City eyes future storms while rebuilding

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Tales of bridges washed out and still unusable and worries about walls of water from future storms had Winter Springs’ City Commission wondering how to stop the city’s post-Hurricane-Ian flooding from ever happening again. 

“Folks, something is not right upstream of us,” Deputy Mayor Kevin Cannon said of the city’s investigation into why water suddenly rose rapidly in creeks with tributaries coming from outside of the city, namely from Casselberry and Seminole County. “We have got to put our boot into someone’s backside to find out.” 

Residents stood up Oct. 24 to tell their stories of water rushing from other cities, including the Southern Oaks subdivision that borders between Winter Springs and Oviedo. 

Resident Mark Duplantis, who lives in Barrington Estates just west of Southern Oaks, said that he watched water flow “like two rivers” from the neighborhood just east of his and into his house for 18 hours during the hurricane. 

“I was before this council five years ago after Hurricane Irma, where water had come from Southern Oaks subdivision into my yard and into my house,” Duplantis said. “The city engineer came to an agreement with the developer and they did it as cheaply as possible, and as of today I’ve got Servpro out packing my house up. We have to move again because of water coming from the Southern Oaks subdivision.”

Utility linemen work to repair a broken power wire near the Southern Oaks development, where residents said some homes were inundated by flooding. Photo by Isaac Babcock.

He said he hoped that the city could try to improve its flood-handling capacity, which was part of what the City Commission voted to do immediately after hurricane Ian when they passed four votes to help the city recover and plan for future storms like it. 

“It’s a ‘500 year storm,’ but it seems like we’re having these types of storms every 5 years,” Commissioner Ted Johnson said. 

The city, which has already announced a development moratorium, is exploring options for forcing developers to build larger stormwater collection capacity to prevent overflow into nearby areas. 

“We’re going to design for the future … those retention ponds, they’re going to have to be bigger, and they’re going to have to hold more water,” Cannon said. 

As water finally recedes throughout Florida, the city is still battling water and storm damage issues nearly a month after the storm. 

“This isn’t over for a lot of people yet, and it’s going to be a long time before it’s oer,” Mayor Kevin McCann said. “We are all in this together. That’s what makes Winter Springs different. We are asking for patience. I understand it’s a little frustrating having yard waste piled up in front of your house or a puddle in front of your doorstep that might be inconvenient, but we really have neighbors that truly do need a great deal of help.”

McCann said the city is working to help residents most affected first, but that many city services are back up and running at full speed. As for garbage and storm debris collection, he said that matter will take time. 

Cleanup of yard debris is expected to continue through Friday, Nov. 11. City officials said that the cleanup can happen faster and get through more neighborhoods more quickly with residents’ help. As the cleanup truck uses a claw on a crane arm, avoid putting debris near power lines, mailboxes, trees and transformers.

“Leave it on the curb and not on the street,” McCann said. “Don’t create a road hazard. They will continue to come back over and over again until we get through the entire city. If they’ve already come through your neighborhood and then you put more stuff out they will come back around.”

City Manager Shawn Boyle said that if residents can consolidate debris into bags and put it together in one place on a street as much as is possible rather than every house having its own pile of debris, the entire city can be cleaned up more quickly. 

“I plan on doing that on my street,” he said. 

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