Log in
Hurricane Season 2023

Was Orange County ready for Hurricane Idalia?

Public Works Department was at the ready


At its high water mark, Idalia was a Category-4 Hurricane that slammed into the Big Bend/Cedar Key region of Florida with 100+mph winds on its way to Georgia and other parts of the southeast. For the most part, Orange County was spared its wrath, but was our county ready?

Orange County Public Works Department is one of the first departments called upon to help in emergency situations like hurricanes, and as we reach the apex of this year’s hurricane season, take comfort in knowing the department is well prepared for if and when a storm hits the region. In fact, it engages year-round to ensure we are prepared for any severe weather, regardless of what time of year it may occur.

As part of that preparation, Public Works has inspected the County’s primary and secondary drainage systems, including canal systems, retention ponds, and subdivision street inlet pipes. Drainage wells and pump stations have also been checked. Any blockage to drainage systems (such as vegetation or sediment) is removed, and drainage areas prone to flooding are constantly monitored and maintained.

“We’ve gone over team assignments to prepare for an approaching storm, and we’ve also met with our hurricane debris contractors to ensure they know what to do if fallen debris is a byproduct of a storm,” explained Jeff Charles, Project Manager – Operations Section, Orange County Public Works, Stormwater Management Division. “The goal is to be prepared, first and foremost.”

Public Works affirmed that 51 primary control structures, 84 drainwells, 19 pump stations, 95 miles of primary canals, 1,645 MSBU (Municipal Service Benefit Units) ponds and 382 non-MSBU ponds have been checked – and will continue to be checked every four weeks. Phone lists have been updated, and all teams have been reminded to double-check their personal protection equipment and storm gear. From a debris standpoint, chainsaws have been maintained, and extra bars and chains have been made available.

At least 72 hours ahead of a storm, fixed-pump stations in low-lying areas are operated to lower lakes, ponds, and canal systems, which provides additional stormwater storage should the region encounter heavy rainfall. Teams also check their assigned areas and clear anything that may slow the stormwater down as it flows to canals, ponds, and drain wells. Mobile pumps are dispatched to County-maintained areas, and all equipment is fueled up and made ready to respond at a moment’s notice. The Traffic Engineering Division verifies all of its mobile generators are ready to go should power outages occur.

“We want to prepare early, communicate aggressively and expect the unexpected,” asserted Charles, “because the preparation and communication makes it much easier to deal with the unexpected, as was the case last year with Hurricane Ian and the flooding it brought.”

For more on how to prepare for a storm, go to the Hurricane Safety Guide. You can assist by calling Orange County 311 if you notice neighborhood ponds or lakes with high water levels or roadway flooding.

Orange County, Hurricane Idalia, Orange County Public Works Department, Hurricane Prep, Hurricane Season 2023