Osceola County issues evacuation, cleanup efforts after Hurricane Ian brings historic flooding

Mandatory evacuation issued for Good Samaritan Society

First responders showed up to Good Samaritan to try to get as many residents out of the area as they could following the emergency evacuation zone declaration.

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Osceola County officials provided an update Saturday on the ongoing evacuations and cleanup efforts underway since Hurricane Ian brought historic flooding through the area.

“We are continuing as we stated yesterday to see historic rise and flooding throughout Osceola County for the over 15 inches of rain we received and not only we received but the Orange County and Seminole County north of us had also received. Our main focus this morning continues to be the rising waters and water rescues across Osceola County,” said Commissioner Brandon Arrington, who spoke alongside other officials after pointing out he had to be rescued from his home to attend the briefing on Saturday.

Arrington said areas still experiencing historic levels of flooding include Shingle Creek, portions of Buenaventura Lakes, Pebble Point and parts of Poinciana.

They are estimating East Lake Tahoe and Lake Tahoe water levels could rise another two feet and may not crest for another four days.

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The city of Kissimmee on Saturday issued a voluntary evacuation for Shingle Creek Reserve at The Oaks due to rising waters, which has since been canceled as of Monday.

County officials began responding to historic flooding Thursday, evacuating residents and assessing the scope of damage done in the wake of Ian.

Leaders urged residents in flood prone areas to seek safe shelter and avoid roadways in an update Friday as they continue to feel the impact of the storm in the area.

The City of Kissimmee on Saturday issued a voluntary evacuation for Shingle Creek Reserve at The Oaks due to rising waters. On Twitter, officials called for people evacuating to cause no wake on the drive out, suggesting those who need help call 911.

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“If you live in the Reedy Creek area, the Boggy Creek area or the Shingle Creek area, we are at the highest water levels we have seen in my lifetime and there is a good chance all of them can continue to increase another foot and rise,” Osceola Commission Chairman Brandon Arrington said in a briefing on Friday. “So, if you’re in those areas, please take this opportunity to get out and find safe shelter.”

First responders showed up to Good Samaritan to try to get as many residents out of the area as they could following the emergency evacuation zone declaration.

The county is reporting at least 14 inches of rain, and water along Shingle, Boggy and Reedy creeks has been flowing south from Orange County into Osceola County, officials said.

“For those who have reached out about the floodgates being open, they are actually open,” Arrington said. “We’ve been working with South Florida Water Management to make sure all the locks are completely open so all the water can flow from our county as quick as possible.”

Official rain totals in Osceola County from Hurricane Ian. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Areas in downtown Kissimmee along Shingle Creek, portions of Buenaventura Lakes, Pebble Point, and other low-lying and flood-prone areas experienced extreme levels of flooding. As a result, the city issued a mandatory curfew from 9 p.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. Friday.

Arrington additionally ordered a mandatory evacuation of Good Samaritan Society, a retirement community in Kissimmee Village, for the safety of the residents and the first responders who spent Friday recovering people.

“As a lifelong resident of Osceola County, I can tell you that places that have never experienced flooding are now experiencing flooding,” Arrington said in an update Saturday. “If you are getting messages to leave your homes, you should heed those warnings and seek safe shelter. We can’t say this enough -- if you’re near bodies of water, we do expect water levels to continue to rise for the next several days, at least. Please make evacuation plans before it is too late. For those impacted, help is on the way: FEMA and state and regional resources are mobilizing to help.”

Video shows the moments when an Osceola County deputy was rescued after stalling in Ian's floodwaters while responding to a call in Kissimmee.

First responders showed up to Good Samaritan to try to get as many residents out of the area as they could following the emergency evacuation zone declaration.

“A lot of people refused to leave because it wasn’t a mandatory evacuation,” Sheriff Marcos Lopez told News 6. “And now that the water is not going down, we’re getting calls of people that (said), ‘Hey, we changed our minds, we want to go.’”

County officials said the sheriff’s office, fire rescue, National Guard, law enforcement agencies and residents successfully evacuated 37 people from high water areas in the Kissimmee Village retirement community on Saturday with one airboat on standby if needed.

“There’s only so much we can do with Mother Nature, especially in waterways. We have obviously worked with South Florida to open up... the gates, to open (as) low as humanly possible. Unfortunately, we’re south of Orange County and Seminole County so as water continues to flow south to Osceola, we’re going to have to deal with with that accumulation as well,” Arrington said. “That’s why we’ve stressed to folks in those low-lying areas, specifically in those creeks, that they take opportunities to get out now.”

Multiple roadways throughout the county are also experiencing road closures. Find the complete list of closures here. SunRail in Osceola County also suffered major damage due to the storm, forcing officials to suspend its service for the upcoming weeks. LYNX, however, is offering a fixed route bus service throughout Osceola County that runs on the same schedule SunRail does. Routes include Links 10, 26, 55, 56 and 306. For more information, click here.

Hurricane Ian hammered Central Florida with rain prompting flash flood warnings across the area and bringing severe flooding to portions of Kissimmee.

County and city offices in Osceola County, Kissimmee and St. Cloud reopened on Monday. Residential curbside collection services also resumed on Monday.

Schools within the district reopened Tuesday, Oct. 4. School officials said make-up days will be determined if they’re required by the state.

“Hurricane Ian brought challenges on a scale we’ve never faced before, but I’m confident that our community will rally together,” Osceola Commission Chairman Brandon Arrington said in a statement. “Osceola is resilient, and I’m so proud of the way everyone is already working together to help one another and move forward. Special thanks to all staff at the county, cities, school district, utilities and more who are putting our residents and visitors first. I urge everyone to remain safe and follow recommendations as we move forward with recovery efforts.”

Flooding concerns throughout low-lying areas in Osceola County led to the mandatory evacuation of a retirement community in Kissimmee Village.

As of Thursday, a special needs shelter was set up in the Events Center at Osceola Heritage Park, located at 1901 Chief Osceola Trail in Kissimmee, and a general population shelter was set up in the Silver Spurs Arena at the same location. Both shelters are pet-friendly.

You can enter your city and state or zip code to see if your area has been declared for Individual Assistance: https://www.disasterassistance.gov/


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About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.