Much of Seminole County’s services are set to reopen on Thursday, Aug. 31, including schools, parks and city buildings after closing on Wednesday, Aug. 30 as Hurricane Idalia approached Florida. The storm hit Florida’s Gulf Coast as a Category 3 Hurricane with 125 mph winds on Wednesday morning.
The storm made landfall in Florida’s Big Bend area, where the panhandle connects to the rest of the state and, as predicted, weakened as it moved east.
Local government services, anticipating sustained winds of 25-35 mph and wind gusts up to 45 mph, shut down on Wednesday. Seminole County received a total of 3-5 inches of rainfall from the storm.
According to an Orlando Sentinel report, about 280 Seminole County customers lost electricity.
City of Winter Springs Spokesperson Matthew Reeser said the city has not gotten any citizen calls concerning major damage from the storm. Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek also said she did not get a lot of citizen calls and the only damage reports from the city included water leaks in Fire Station 48’s lobby and in the city’s Public Safety Building.
How vulnerable residents fared
Folks in Lake Harney, which experienced severe flooding that stranded residents for weeks after Hurricane Ian hit nearly a year ago, said they’re faring well after Idalia.
“It’s no worse than a regular, old afternoon thunderstorm. Making my grass grow,” said John Andrews.
Winter Springs resident Denise Brown, who experienced significant home damage after Hurricane Ian dumped 15 inches of rain in east Seminole County within 24 hours, said she too did not have damage from Idalia. But she said she prepared for the worst because she felt the City of Winter Springs did not adequately clear Gee Creek.
“We prepared with sandbags and left for our daughter’s house because we did not feel secure here,” she said. “Once you’ve been through it, you can’t stay. You’re afraid to get stuck in your house.”
Reeser said the city started clearing debris from Gee Creek, Bear Creek, Soldiers Creek, Howell Creek, No Name Creek and Sheoah Creek on Aug. 8. Howell Creek is the last creek the contractors will work on and they’re planning to start that work on Friday.
The city was awarded a $6.5 million grant from Natural Resources Conservation Services for this work and sediment-clearing work, which has not started yet. The city is on the hook for $1.6 million of that.
Brown said she was not satisfied with the work that was done.
“What they said they were going to do and what they actually did, it looked like minor work, a couple branches here and there. There was no dredging. If there was another Ian situation I would not feel safe,” she said.
Reeser said the city could not start on the sediment removal within the creeks, which will prevent overflowing, until the debris cleanup is finished. The contract for that work is currently out for bid. Once the city has bidders, the City Commission will decide who to award the contract to.
He added that the debris removal is the most critical in preventing flooding from the creeks. Reeser also said the city will explore whether they can use some of the grant money to dredge stormwater ponds to keep water from flowing out of those during a major storm. Find more information on the city’s creek work here.
Find local resources in OCN’s Local Disaster Resource Guide.
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