Seminole County officials discuss rising waters, future floods in Ian’s aftermath

Locations remain open for water, tarp, sandbag pickup

The Seminole County Office of Emergency Management held a news briefing Sunday morning to discuss the rising waters and future flood risks to the area’s lakefronts following Ian. Standing before the Sanford Riverwalk and Downtown Sanford Marina near 350 E Seminole Blvd, the county’s Emergency Manager Allen Harris said the Riverwalk had since “actually become part of the St. Johns River.”

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Seminole County emergency officials provided an update Sunday to discuss the rising waters and future flood risks to the area’s lakefronts following Ian.

Standing before the Sanford Riverwalk and Downtown Sanford Marina near 350 E Seminole Blvd, the county’s Emergency Manager Alan Harris said the Riverwalk had “actually become part of the St. Johns River.”

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“Flooding continues to increase in certain areas of our community as other areas decrease. Here along the St. Johns River at Lake Monroe and also at Lake Harney, the rivers continue to increase,” Harris said. “The Lake Harney river gauge has now gone underwater, so if you go to the Lake Harney gauge, it is not currently sending data to us. The USGS is attempting to place a floating gauge at that location so that we can get good readings and good forecasts for this area.”

Harris on Friday said over 1,200 Seminole County homes were affected by flooding or other damage from Hurricane Ian, a figure that has since almost doubled.

“Today, we know of at least 2,000 homes that are damaged. Yesterday was 1,900, so an additional 100 homes over the last 24 hours have now had flood damage due to rising waters along the St. Johns River,” Harris said. “Seminole County residents are eligible for FEMA assistance. FEMA is on the ground here in the county, everybody is also eligible for SBA — Small Business Administration — loans. To file for FEMA assistance, you can do so... at 1-800-621-FEMA, or if you have internet capabilities,”

According to Harris, FEMA will open a disaster recovery center in Seminole County where residents without access to amenities such as internet access can apply for individual assistance.

Seminole County first responders returned to the Spring Oaks neighborhood Friday as residents are continuing to see widespread flooding from Hurricane Ian.

County officials had previously said they were concerned about increased flooding along the St. Johns River, Lake Harney, Lake Jesup and Lake Monroe, as tributaries flow into these bodies of water.

Sanford Mayor Art Woodruff asked Sunday that residents continue to conserve water and limit sewer flow, as he said water from Ian’s flooding was expected to continue entering those systems.

This comes after the county saw unprecedented historic flooding from Hurricane Ian in areas such as Altamonte Springs, Geneva, Lake Mary, Heathrow, Wekiva and Winter Springs.

In some areas, such as Winter Springs, residents had to be rescued from rising flood waters.

Hurricane Ian brought “unprecedented historic flooding” to Seminole County, with continued flash flood warnings on Thursday.

As of Sunday, power had been restored to all Seminole County schools, which Harris said collectively intend to reopen Monday, adding students with challenges brought about by the hurricane will have excused absences that day.

“Duke reports 90% of power should be restored tonight by midnight. FPL has reported that they will have 95% completed by Tuesday at midnight. So there’s still quite a bit of restoration that needs to be done today and through Tuesday,” Harris said.

Until schools reopen, water and tarps will be distributed at a drive-thru location at Winter Springs High School, Harris said. Residents can find the same supplies being handed out at the Rural Heritage Center in Geneva, and they can also pick up sandbags at either place.

Alfredo Colimodio owns Sanford Pizza Company, which he said would remain open so long as the water doesn’t get inside.

“Hopefully the water the next couple of days will start receding and somehow we will go back to normal,” Colimodio said.

Seminole County Fire Chief Max Kinley reiterated the importance of generator safety at the conference, reporting an instance on Friday where a mother and a child were hospitalized due to exposure to carbon monoxide.

“The Seminole County Fire Department has responded to about a dozen calls for high levels of carbon monoxide in homes due to generators since the storm started. On Friday night, a mother and a child were transported from exposure to carbon monoxide from a generator that was placed in an unventilated area. We are stressing again the importance of generator safety,” Kinley said. “Remember that portable generators emit carbon monoxide, which is poisonous, deadly, odorless, colorless, you can’t see it, you won’t know it’s there. Use portable generators 20 feet away from your home in a ventilated area, never put it in an unventilated area. Never use the generator attached to a garage, even with the door open. Make sure to install carbon monoxide detectors, they can save your life. Also remember to turn off generators and let them cool down before fueling, never refuel a hot generator.”

At Colonial Room Restaurant, about two blocks away from the marina, Michelle Simoneaux told News 6 she’d been watching water levels rise, from a distance.

“I do 100% feel that the city will do everything in their power to keep us from being underwater,” Simoneaux said.

Watch the full news conference in the embedded video player below.

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About the Authors:

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.

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