Hurricane Irma Recovery Update
From Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson
Prior to the storm, 311 reported the following amounts of inquiries presented to their line between September 5th and September 9th: 1,168 for sandbag information, 729 for animal issues, 629 for shelter information, and 617 for general information. Out of the total calls that had been made during this time period, 40% were related to Hurricane Irma, with the highest caller volume being on September 7th. After the storm, 60% of the total inquiries made to 311 were Hurricane Irma related, broken down into the following categories: 1,823 for power outages, 931 for trees blocking roads, 925 for power poles, 535 for traffic signals, and 526 for trees on private property.
From September 10th-17th, Orange County had activated 24 shelters: 19 for general population evacuees, 2 pet friendly, 3 for evacuees with special needs, and 2 additional shelters requested by the State. The total population that resided in these shelters was 4,391. For shelters for People with Special Needs (PSN), over 350 evacuees were reportedly sheltered. Where Orange County staff sets up these shelters and handles the logistics, the Florida Department of Health staff provide assistance and medical support to evacuees. In transporting evacuees to these shelters, more than 1,300 trips had been made by Lynx.
Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) and Duke Energy are the main electric providers servicing Orange County residents: Approximately 200,000 customers are with OUC, and approximately 370,000 customers are with Duke Energy. According to reports by the County and power companies, Duke Energy customers experienced more power outages on September 11th at over 200,000 compared to OUC customers who experienced power outages at more than 140,000. While the number of the power outages had decreased after this date, OUC customers experienced no power outages from September 16th-September 18th.
The Orange County Convention Center had acted as the Emergency Command Center for response during Hurricane Irma. Two senior airmen with the National Guard—couple Lauren Durham and Michael Davis—had been deployed to assist with rescue efforts; their wedding date had been set around the time of deployment. Instead of asking for time off duty, the couple reported for duty, and had an impromptu wedding at the Convention Center before the storm.
In its emergency response plan, Orange County Fire Rescue had adjusted its dispatch of units to meet the demands of the storm. The response was discontinued in areas with 50 MPH sustained or 65 MPH gusts, where local conditions were determined by Officers in the field. From September 10th-September 17th, the volumes of 911 calls can be broken down into the following categories: 2,607 for medical calls, 1,411 for miscellaneous incidents, 657 for automatic alarms, and 252 for vehicle crashes. The typical call volume is nearly 400, with the highest volumes of calls being made well above this number on September 11th. Additionally, the response also included Windshield Surveys and a response to flooding. Furthermore, Community Action Response Teams (CART) are assisting residents with removing trees and large debris as well as providing blue tarps, water, and insect spray.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been assessed.
The Orange County Communications Department reported 13 press briefings, receiving more than 400 calls from the media, and over 2.8 million visits to ocfl.net. To keep the public informed on updates with Orange County’s efforts before, during, and after Hurricane Irma, staff have been providing updates on ocfl.net, Facebook, and Twitter; the top day for news for this event was September 11th. Additionally, an employee hotline was maintained, and residents were encouraged to download and follow the OCFL Alert App for updates on Hurricane Irma. The App included information and updates on the following: Hurricane/tornado warnings; generator use; curfew, sewage backups; and evacuation routes. Between September 10th and September 15th, there were 3,880 downloads; 2,902 of these downloads occurred on September 10th. Furthermore, the OCFL Newsroom website included updated information on the following: Shelter locations; FEMA major disaster declaration; repair permits/license contractors; debris information; and executive orders. For residents specifically seeking this information, the OCFL Alert App had been reportedly downloaded 919 times from September 10th-15th, 347 of those downloads occurring on September 10th.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office had experienced a 35.5% increase in calls for service during the time of the hurricane. Between September 9th and 14th, calls for service can be broken down into the following categories: 223 felony arrests; 244 misdemeanor arrests; and 37 curfew arrests. 24,909 calls for service had been reportedly made during this time period, with the average number of daily calls being 4,151. Additionally, two Orange County radio towers were reported to have been out of service, affecting communications in the downtown and Lake Buena Vista areas; the towers have since been restored.
Orange County maintains 576 traffic signals. When these traffic signals experienced power outages, generators and stop signs were used at major intersections. While the traffic signals were being repaired, Orange County Public Works worked with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to help maintain public safety. Orange County reportedly had 248 traffic signals out, only 98 out after 48 hours, and currently has no traffic signals out. In addition, portable stop signs have been placed on barricades while damaged traffic control signs are being repaired. Currently, there are almost 1,200 signs that need repair.
Orange County Public Works is currently monitoring localized and significant flooding with afternoon rains in the following areas: Westside Manor, Orla Vista; Lake Cortez; Buck Road; and Boggy Creek.
On Monday, September 11th, employees from Orange County Utilities began their response to pump stations in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma with 13-hour overlapping crew shifts succeeding assessments. 59 sewer lateral backups had been reported.
In its building damage assessment of 41,722 structures, Orange County Community, Environmental and Development Services made the following findings: 186 had structural damage; 320 had non-structural damage; and 21 were considered uninhabitable. Power was pulled from 278 units. Additionally, after completion of its billboard damage assessment, Services found that significantly damaged billboards could not be replaced. The assessment focused on non-conforming billboards and only observed minimal damage. Furthermore, over 50 County parks were reported to have been significantly impacted. 40 County park sites remain closed, having suffered damage including power and phone outages, significant debris, damage to fences and shade structures; West Orange Trail had been washed out. It should be noted that several of these park sites were utilized as shelters and debris sites, and that County staff are working to resume normal activities and programming.
Orange County has been declared eligible for FEMA Assistance. What this means for the County is that costs for emergency measures will be reimbursed at 100% over a 30 day period; eligible costs associated with debris cleanup will be reimbursed at 75%. County reserves will be utilized for up-front costs and its portion. Additionally, Orange County has been approved for FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program. Residents are eligible to apply for this program, which provides grants for temporary housing, home repairs, and other serious disaster related needs, as well as loans and other assistance. Interested residents can register for this program by visiting www.DisasterAssistance.gov or calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), TTY: 800-462-7585. Furthermore, Orange County has been approved for Operation Blue Roof, a program provided by FEMA, where U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors assist homeowners who have suffered roof damage from Hurricane Irma with installing plastic sheeting over the damaged area. The purpose of the program is to mitigate additional damage to roofs waiting for repair that could result from rain. For program details and information, residents can go to http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/BlueRoof/. Information about the program will also be announced on the County website, social media, apps, and 311.
On Friday, September 22nd, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved its Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) (also referred to as Food for Florida) for Florida disaster counties. This program offers emergency food benefits to victims of hurricanes and other types of disasters that are not already receiving assistance under the Food Stamp Program, in counties approved for FEMA for Individual Assistance. Currently, site locations for registration for D-SNAP in Orange County have not been established yet. Floridians interested in this program are directed to check the Florida Department of Children and Families website at http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/access/fff/ for updates, more information, registration sites, what to bring to registration, and eligibility requirements. D-SNAP sites will also be posted on this website when they become available; site locations will be updated 5 days before each county opens.
The Orange County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) remains at a Level 2: Restoration efforts and operations will continue; debris removal will be the main focus of the County in the coming weeks; and resident communications will continue to be updated throughout the restoration process. Information in this article was derived from the County storm debriefing at the Board of County Commissioners meeting on September 19th. Residents interested in watching the debriefing may go to http://netapps.ocfl.net/mod.