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Orlo Vista pond pumps no match for Irma, Orange County officials say

National Guard rescues 55 after flood waters breach homes

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Two retention ponds in Orlo Vista were pumped before Hurricane Irma hit and lowered to its lowest possible points, as well as during and after the storm, but the efforts were no match for the storm water.

The ponds overflowed and water gushed into dozens of homes in the neighborhood because Irma’s flood waters overwhelmed them, according to Orange County Stormwater Management.

"It's reached its peak. And it's so unfortunate the residents here are going through what they're going through," said Orange County Commissioner Victoria Siplin, whose district includes Orlo Vista. "We realize there is an issue here."

Annie Hemingway lives near the ponds, and had to throw away much of what was inside her house. On Wednesday, she was still cleaning up, more than a week after the storm.

"It's a long process, it's a long process," she said, adding that she remembers water from the ponds flooding so many streets and homes that the National Guard was called in to rescue 55 of her neighbors and several of their pets. Still, she stayed behind with her husband.

"We were praying, we figured God had us," she said.

Residents from 138 homes in Orlo Vista required rescuing on Sept. 10. The water level breached homes by several feet.

Orange County stormwater manager Mike Drozeck said the pumps are electric and have emergency generators to ensure continual power. However, after Irma, his department will be developing a new plan to address short and long-term needs.

Siplin said she looks forward to learning more about the plan and "discussing with staff, and putting all ideas together to see what are the long term goals so something like this won't happen again.”

“This won’t happen again,” Siplin said, assuredly.

Siplin is also planning a cleanup in Orlo Vista for Saturday starting at 10 a.m.