Orlo Vista residents 'nervous' over potential flooding ahead of 2018 hurricane season

More than 130 homes flooded during Hurricane Irma

ORLO VISTA, Fla. – With rain in the forecast throughout the holiday weekend, concerns of potential flooding have resurfaced in the Orlo Vista community of Orange County.

It was one the county's hardest-hit areas during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs called the flooding the worst she's ever seen in the county.

Months after the storm, some residents are just moving back into their homes.

Clarence Oliver III said his family lived in a hotel for seven months while their home was repaired. They just moved back in a month ago.

"Glory be to God, we're back in our home," Oliver said.

His home was one of more than 130 that flooded during Hurricane Irma. Emergency crews rescued 55 people.

"The whole lake came up in the neighborhood. Almost to the entrance to the expressway, getting that high," Oliver said.

Dianne Scott moved back into her home before Christmas. She said she's worried her home could flood again because of the recent rainfall and the tropical moisture Central Florida is expected to get over the next several days.

"With the rain coming down, you know we're nervous. We're looking to see if it's going to flood," Scott said.

Orange County Commissioner Victoria Siplin, who represents the Orlo Vista community, said the county conducted a study prior to Hurricane Irma that found the area has the potential to flood. The problem is, the neighborhood is not in a FEMA flood zone.

"The first thing they (residents) said is, 'Hey, this wasn't a flood zone,'" Siplin said. "That's why a lot of them did not have flood insurance."

Officials said the county is working with FEMA to change the flood map, but that could take more than year.

“Orange County Stormwater Management continues to do its due diligence with FEMA to help the residents of Westside Manor by working to change its FEMA floodplain map status. Based on our consultant’s study on the pumps in the area and additional survey data currently being collected, we are submitting a request to FEMA to include Westside Manor in its updated floodplain map," Orange County Manager of the Stormwater Division Mike Drozeck said in a statement. "We are in the early stages of this process and it is an extensive endeavor that can take up to a year or longer. Stormwater also plans to mail an informational brochure on flood risks to the Westside Manor residents.” 

In the meantime, Siplin said the county is taking steps to keep the community dry.

"We've assessed the pumps. They're working well. We've made sure to maintain them," she said.

Siplin adds the county also cleared the canals of vegetation and installed skimmers to catch debris.

"Even with the amount of rainfall that we've received in the last few days, the pumps have been able to maintain the level that we expect the water in the pond to be at," Siplin said.

[READ: Large number of Central Floridians sought FEMA help after Hurricane Irma]

Siplin said the county is also considering digging the ponds deeper to hold more stormwater. Another solution the county is considering is purchasing nearby land and homes to widen the ponds, but Siplin said that is a lengthy process and not their first option.

Residents are hopeful these short-term and long-term plans will prevent any future flooding.

"It's kinda scary. You don't know what's going to happen, if the water is going to do that again. You have no idea what's going to happen," Oliver said.

Orange County released a brochure to help residents prepare for flooding. Click here to read that.

Click here to search using FEMA's Flood Map to see if your home is in a flood zone.

About the Author: