What a difficult few weeks for all of us. Floods, trees down, lack of power, students out of school, and more trouble than I’m sure I am capable of tallying up. Even for my family... my son and I had to go out in the rain to open the sewer drain. The tree limb I knew I should have cut down fell off, missing my new roof by inches. And, of course, my neighbor’s 20-year-old wooden fence came barreling down.
After the storm was over and my plumbing was fixed, I spent two days driving around, reporting downed trees and intersections without power. It was quite an easy task for me. I dialed 311. 311 is the best tool Orange County Government has to quickly and accurately route problems to the appropriate department. It is so easy, residents can also report problems ever before I find them.
District 2, for the most part, had the fewest problems in the county. The flooding in Orlo Vista, Horizon West, and east Orange County was certainly bad. Oaks of Wekiwa next to Lake Page had our worst flooding. Several homes were flooded. Nevertheless, I made a few observations about where I found the most damage in our communities.
It is vital during the summer rains to notice portions of roadways that appear to flood. For example, one night, I was out at a friend’s home and ended up in 18 inches of water on the street. I immediately reported the situation to Orange County Roads & Drainage. Actually, I called it in to 311 that night, and the staff followed up with me the next day. This was in an older neighborhood, and all they had was a ditch for the water to go towards, with it all ending ultimately in the Little Wekiva River. And guess what? Staff determined the ditch was plugged. They cleaned it out and contoured the ditch.
Additionally, it is important not to blow grass clippings and leaves into the stormwater drains. Try to notice and report areas that are struggling in regular rain events.
Prior to Hurricane Ian, our Public Works Department visited a minimum of 60 “hot spots” where water is known to gather, removing debris in preparation for the hurricane.
Tree trimming in older, legacy neighborhoods can be a challenge. I have found it important to allow wind to get through the trees and keep the additional weight off at the lower levels. A week before the hurricane, I trimmed up my lemon tree. It did just fine in the hurricane. Most of the trees and areas where I found downed trees were either thickly wooded or trees that were not well maintained. I know tree trimming and removal are cost-prohibitive for many communities. Yet, a tree on top of a home is even worse. Try sharing expenses with neighbors, planning for tree trimming at the beginning of hurricane season, or calling my office for potential philanthropic sources of funding.
Finally, it is important to stow away garbage cans and belongings before a storm. My neighborhood leaders made final inspections and offered assistance to those struggling in their own communities. It might be a good idea at the beginning of hurricane season to do a backyard overhaul – get rid of what needs to go.
Hurricanes are awful events for Floridians. If we keep a positive outlook and seek to improve certain practices, we can continue to get through them all the stronger than we were before the storm. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to call my staff at 407/836-5850.