ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Mayor Jerry Demings extended Orange County’s state of emergency Monday as the area deals with its first hurricane-related death, ongoing debris cleanup and increased demand for affordable and emergency housing in the wake of Ian.
In a news conference at the Orange County Emergency Operations Center, Demings said he extended the countywide state of emergency by seven days to allow officials “to continue to work with the state and the federal government and our other local partners to more efficiently get the response and recovery efforts underway.”
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The mayor also implored residents to use caution when cleaning up after the storm following the death of a 75-year-old man who fell off his roof cleaning storm debris.
“So to that family our prayers certainly go out to them,” Demings said. “It is a reminder, however, to all of our residents that we ask everyone to use extreme caution when trying to clean up from Hurricane Ian.”
Cleanup efforts are well underway as Demings also added the county has seen at least $188.8 million worth of property damage and accrued at least 50,000 cubic yards of storm debris, which will take about five to six weeks to be hauled away.
As a result of Ian’s impact, facilities like the Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Recovery Center have been set up within the county to ameliorate the devastation.
“In its first day, FEMA served 109 residents with issues related to recovery from the hurricane,” said Demings, of the center operating out of Barnett Park from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. “The center is partnered with local and state agencies to provide a one-stop shop for individuals or businesses that need help recovering from the storm.”
According to FEMA representative Charles Williams, the biggest needs the center has seen in Orange County are for temporary housing, food and transportation.
“We have people who have been displaced from their apartments or their homes are uninhabitable due to mold, so we’ve been reached out for that,” Williams said. “We have reached out to the people for loss of their vehicles and other things. So, it’s a mixture of housing, shelter, transportation and replacing food items. People eligible with FEMA (have been) given... hotels, we’ve put people in shelters (who are) given immediate food... We’re trying to meet their needs from now for the next two years.”
When asked about long-term solutions for long-term problems, like residents and students living near the University of Central Florida being displaced due to flooding, the mayor said the county is working with community partners to identify vacancies on campus and otherwise.
“At this point, there’s no question that the hurricane and the destruction associated with that hurricane has exacerbated the housing challenges that we have,” he said. “Now Orange County also has a housing assistance program that we are funded through this current cycle where we will be providing rental assistance to individuals and we’re using federal dollars and county funds to provide that assistance.”
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