OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Osceola County residents were busy Tuesday getting their last-minute preparations in place as they braced for Hurricane Ian.
Heritage Park in Kissimmee was packed again Tuesday with people filling up sandbags.
Osceola County Emergency Management Officials provided an update and warned residents they had mere hours to finish their preparations.
Osceola County resident Robert Wietor says he lives directly across from a lake in a low-lying part of Kissimmee. Wietor says his concern for Ian is growing each day.
“It’s inching to the right toward Kissimmee,” Wietor said. “I don’t like to see that.”
That’s why Wietor joined hundreds of other people sandbagging at Heritage Park. Each person is allowed to fill up to 25 bags to put around their homes. The site closes at 6 p.m.
“Not putting any wood up or anything, but hoping the sandbags will at least keep the water out,” Wietor said.
County officials say they’re glad to see residents taking the storm seriously.
“This is a critical time,” Osceola County Emergency Manager Bill Linton said. “Now is not the time to linger on the direction for your decision.”
At Tuesday’s briefing on Hurricane Ian, county leaders said there would be no mandatory evacuations or a curfew at this time, but people are encouraged to shelter-in-place.
The forecast currently calls for Osceola County to receive anywhere from six to eight inches of rain, so the risk of flooding is high.
“If you know that’s going to be an issue for you, please leave now,” Linton said. “Make preparations to go with family or friends or one of our shelters.”
The county is also removing sand and silt in certain areas to help disperse pent-up water.
Across town, people living in the 55-plus community in the Good Samaritan Society are hoping to avoid more flooding.
Residents actually had to kayak through their neighborhoods when Hurricane Irma came through in 2017.
“We’ve really been working with the county over the last three years to make sure we can prepare as much as possible,” Good Samaritan Vice President of Operations Aimee Middleton said.
The facility has evacuated approximately 150 assisted living residents to their DeLand location, along with dozens of staff.
Approximately 1,000 independent residents were given the choice to self-evacuate or stay. Middleton says communication is key to keeping everyone calm as they wait out the storm.
There are also specific shelters for those with special needs.
Separate from those, all registered sex offenders must go to the Osceola County courthouse if they need shelter.
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