Volusia County officials discuss ongoing Hurricane Ian response effort, ‘indescribable’ damage

Almost 400 stayed in Volusia shelters Friday

Roads were flooded Friday in Daytona Beach near the east coast of Florida, which was hit especially hard by Hurricane Ian during its exit from the state.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – At a news conference on Saturday, Volusia County officials announced that all school based shelters have been closed and all evacuees have been moved to the Ocean Center.

They also announced they are in the process of conducting walkthroughs at all of their school campuses and plan on students returning to school on Wednesday, Oct. 5 and urged the community to check their social media channels for further updates.

[TRENDING: Osceola County officials provide Ian update after voluntary evacuation issued in Shingle Creek area | Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties now eligible for FEMA assistance in Ian’s wake | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

When Volusia County leaders on Friday held a news conference to discuss the region’s ongoing disaster response to Hurricane Ian, Community Information Director Kevin Captain called the destruction left behind “indescribable.”

“The recovery and healing process from this storm is underway. However, just because the storm has moved on, the danger has not. Many roads remain underwater and littered with fallen trees. We have many abandoned vehicles on the sides of roads with no one inside to tell the story of their misfortune. While county officials have lifted all curfews, we still discourage residents from leaving their homes unless it’s absolutely necessary. It’s going to take a lot of people to restore our beautiful community,” Captain said.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood reported three deaths in the region during Ian, lamenting the loss while praising those who worked to help others through the hurricane and its aftermath.

“You know, I hope we all reflect this weekend on what a historic and catastrophic event we faced here, and that you keep our fellow Volusia County residents in your prayers because we lost three lives during this event, and there are untold numbers who’ve had catastrophic losses of their home and their property, and not to mention what is going on to our friends and neighbors down in the southwest part of the state,” Chitwood said. “You think of the rain and the wind that came into our community. New Smyrna Beach, 15 and a half inches of rain; DeLand, almost 13 inches; Edgewater, 11 and a half; Lake Helen, 11 inches of rain; Debary, 11 inches of rain; Daytona Beach, a little over 10. When you factor that in — plus there were over 600 calls to our dispatch center for people to be evacuated — I could not be prouder to be part of the team we have here in Volusia County.”

Captain said Volusia County was notified the Edgewater Animal Shelter had taken on water in the hurricane, prompting the successful evacuation of 19 dogs and 71 cats to other shelters in the area.

No debris removal date had yet been set for Volusia County residents due to pending damage assessments, according to Captain. In the meantime, those looking to toss debris were advised to separate it into two piles behind the curb on the side of the road, one for vegetative waste and another for demolition debris. For electronics and otherwise hazardous waste such as chemical containers, Captain said one could dispose of those items at the Tomoka Landfill or at the West Volusia Transfer Station, both of which were open Friday.

When Volusia County leaders on Friday held a news conference to discuss the region’s ongoing disaster response to Hurricane Ian, Community Information Director Kevin Captain called the destruction left behind “indescribable.”

Shelter locations established in Volusia County for residents to ride out Hurricane Ian will shutter at 10 a.m. Saturday, according to Emergency Management Director Jim Judge.

“So, we want to get out of those schools and be able to have them open back up, give the school district time to get to cleaning and things that they need to do so, with that, 10 a.m. tomorrow morning at the Ocean Center; that will be the main evacuation point and sheltering location for Volusia County, so not only do we have folks at the special needs shelter and also general population shelter, we still have individuals who are sheltered down in Ponce Inlet, New Smyrna Beach and then also in Port Orange,” Judge said. “So, all those community centers, they’ll be transitioning also to the Ocean Center.”

Captain said the county’s shelters held almost 400 people as of 9 a.m.

For further information about school openings, residents were encouraged to visit the Volusia County Schools website.

A countywide curfew in Volusia was allowed to expire at 7 a.m., after officials anticipated another 1-3 inches of rain overnight.

County officials on Thursday urged residents to put safety first and keep off of roads and out of water as Ian dropped more than 20 inches of rain there in a day’s time, according to Ben Bartlett, Volusia’s public works director.

“A 100-year storm event is roughly 11 inches of rain over a 24-hour period,” Bartlett said. “Ian just dropped more than double that amount across Volusia County. Do not take the risk driving into a flooded area, turn around, don’t drown.”

Judge made mention of how Volusia County was one of four Central Florida counties recently added to a list of those eligible for FEMA Individual Assistance.

“We anticipate that Individual Assistance coming shortly. So what is that? So once we get the approval for Individual Assistance, you’re able to go online — there’ll be a lot of information coming out — where you can submit for Individual Assistance for FEMA. So that’ll be able to be done at our libraries, you can do it, you know, from your home, on your computer, even from your smartphone. So, all that is forthcoming,” Judge said.

According to FEMA, people can apply for disaster assistance by visiting disasterassistance.gov, by calling 800-621-3362 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. EDT or by using the FEMA mobile app.

Tammy Malphurs, deputy chief of Volusia County Beach Safety/Ocean Rescue, said conditions at the county’s shores remained unsafe, suggesting that residents avoid them for several days.

“The double red flags are currently flying and we expect to fly them for the next few days. In addition to the waves, debris may be in the ocean and onshore which will cause bodily harm,” Malphurs said. “There are many beach walkovers, sea walls and sea dunes that have been damaged by the storm. Please stay off of these to avoid injury or further damage. We understand the temptation to go to the beach — the weather is nice, it’s the weekend, everyone’s been huddled in their homes the last few days. Please heed our warning, you’re putting yourself and first responders in harm’s way.”

Individuals or organizations looking to participate in Volusia County’s cleanup effort were encouraged to register with the United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties by visiting its website, or by calling the county’s Citizens Information Center at 386-345-0345. That phone number was also recommended for residents who experienced significant property damage in the hurricane, or for those unable to remain or return safely.

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Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.