More flooding, evacuations expected in Orange County as receding rainwater swells rivers, lakes

County leaders look to reestablish services, remove storm debris

Hurricane Ian brought massive floods to many parts of Orange County, and community residents have been pushing leaders for solutions.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – More flooding is expected in Orange County as water levels crest over the coming days after Ian dumped rain across the area, according to Mayor Jerry Demings.

The mayor said this additional flooding comes as the county is still seeing significant amounts of standing water.

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“We will still have streets and intersections closed due to the excessive standing of water throughout our community,” Demings said during a news conference Monday.

The additional flooding may result in more evacuations. Currently, there is only one shelter open in the county, located at the South Econ Recreation Center. The mayor said there are currently fewer than 100 people housed at the shelter.

Orange County was hit with up to 16 inches of rain, leading to flooded roads, apartments and homes across some areas. As a result, Orange County Fire Rescue performed more than 1,700 rescues throughout the area, county officials said on Saturday. The mayor said there had been no additional water rescues.

As part of the county’s storm recovery efforts, the public works department is working with third-party contractors to coordinate debris removal.

Trooper Steve went out to Lake Ivanhoe and Lake Eola in downtown Orlando, and to Eatonville.

“The contractors are hired by Orange County to haul away large amounts of debris,” Demings said. “That means a large amount of debris that is too big for normal yard waste collection. Detailed plans will be provided soon, including directions on when to place items at the curb.”

This comes days after Ian hit southwest Florida as a Category 4 hurricane and moved across the state, causing historic flooding and widespread damage.

Jo Gardner, a resident of Orlo Vista since 2001, told News 6 that the level of flooding has been a first for her.

“It’s gone down a lot,” she said. “I’ve lived here 21 years. I’ve never seen it like this.”

When asked whether he had any concrete details about how to fix the flooding issues in the Orlo Vista community, Demings said the county was “very committed.”

“It’s a costly fix just because of how the community is built,” Demings said. “So the question is always, ‘Who’s going to pay for it?’ — those improvements that are needed.’”

Flooding has also been a major issue for for the Vista Lakes community, with much of the area still underwater thanks to the heavy rainfall brought in by Hurricane Ian.

While businesses, parks and government offices throughout the county are back in operation, Orange County Public Schools will not reopen until Tuesday, except for Riverdale Elementary School.

Dr. Maria Vazquez, the superintendent for Orange County Public Schools said all of the other schools impacted by the storm have been evaluated and will reopen on Tuesday.

“(The schools) have been deemed safe to reopen,” Vazquez said. “Riverdale Elementary students will not begin until Thursday, Oct. 6. We have relocated them temporarily to East River High School.”

Vazquez added that while there has been some improvement to Riverdale Elementary, the building remains in bad shape.

“The damage is quite extensive and will take some time to repair, but the work that I see that was done has been done very quickly,” the superintendent said. “Many of the items that were not on the floor will be salvageable and we’re looking forward to Riverdale returning in the near future.”

The school district is hosting an open house for students and parents at East River High School on Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Orange County residents and businesses impacted by the storm can apply for federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration at disasterassistance.gov or disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ela/s/.

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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.

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.