Volusia braces for onslaught of Irma; shelters to open

Hopeful sign – This sign at Kaiser Buick GMC in DeLand expresses a widely-held hope that Irma will spare West Volusia from the brunt of its impacts.

Hopeful sign – This sign at Kaiser Buick GMC in DeLand expresses a widely-held hope that Irma will spare West Volusia from the brunt of its impacts.

BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON

Preparations – DeLand city workers board up windows at DeLand City Hall on Thursday afternoon.

Preparations – DeLand city workers board up windows at DeLand City Hall on Thursday afternoon.

BEACON PHOTO/JOE CREWS

More information on Irma here

View shelter information from Volusia County here

“Pray, and let’s prepare,” Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen urged everyone in the County Council Chambers Sept. 7, as Hurricane Irma is on a collision course with Florida’s east coast and other shores of the southeastern U.S.

The spiritual dimension of the story was not lost on county leaders, who echoed the call to pray.

“I know we have no control,” County Chair Ed Kelley said, adding he had been told a prayer vigil was set for that evening in Daytona Beach.

Kelley and Vice Chair Deborah Denys said they hope Irma will veer farther eastward into the Atlantic, well off the coast of Florida, as happened in the case of Hurricane Matthew in October last year.

“They prayed, and about an hour later, it moved,” Kelley recalled.

The storm is such that the County Council, as it has done on similar occasions, quickly approved emergency ordinances declaring a state of emergency and authorizing Kelley to order evacuations and to impose a curfew if needed.

To accommodate those getting out of harm’s way, Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Judge said 21 shelters have been set up around the county, which will begin opening Saturday morning. Click the link above for addresses.

Mandatory evacuations of the beachside may take place, but mandatory does not mean a recalcitrant homeowner will be forced to leave his property under threat of arrest. Rather, Dinneen explained, the bridges between the mainland and the barrier islands will be closed, and no emergency responders will answer calls for help from anyone — who refused to leave the danger zone — stranded and in distress during the height of the storm.

“We’re recommending that they voluntarily evacuate,” Dinneen said.

Irma’s initial effects, notably increasing winds and some rain, may come to Volusia late Saturday night, and weather conditions may “continu[e] to deteriorate” on Sunday to include “strong Category 3 winds,” warned Judge.

“We could have those winds for about six hours,” he said. “We anticipate conditions may still be bad on Monday.”

Volusia County government offices and schools will be closed Monday. Irma may pour as much as “eight to 10 inches” of rain on the area, Judge added.

If Hurricane Irma does cause damage similar to or worse than what was caused by Hurricane Matthew, Dinneen cautioned, Volusians should not expect a quick return to normalcy.

“Our resources are stretched thinner this year,” he told the council. “A lot of your resources are out in Texas [aiding in the recovery from Hurricane Harvey] and south [in the Caribbean areas already hit by Irma].”

“Do I think we’re absolutely as prepared as we could be? I do,” Dinneen said.

The emergency arising from Hurricane Irma is such that Council Member Heather Post suggested the council postpone its first public hearing and tentative vote on the county government’s 2017-18 budget and property-tax rates.

The meeting, the first of two sessions to adopt the new spending and revenue plans, may be delayed under state law, if an actual emergency exists, allowing anyone wishing to attend the meeting to prepare for the storm.

After some debate, council members decided to go forward with the public hearing and vote.

That meeting, which is open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. today, Thursday, Sept. 7, in the County Council Chambers of the Thomas C. Kelly County Administration Center, 123 W. Indiana Ave., DeLand.

— Al Everson, al@beacononlinenews.com

 
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