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The old windbag is gone - Now, time for the cleanup

Everyone can help — With help from grandson Sam Joseph, Mike Lafferty clears tree debris from his property in DeBary, echoing the activity of thousands of West Volusians this week in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Sam, 2, is the son of Sarah and Dave Joseph of DeLand.

Everyone can help — With help from grandson Sam Joseph, Mike Lafferty clears tree debris from his property in DeBary, echoing the activity of thousands of West Volusians this week in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Sam, 2, is the son of Sarah and Dave Joseph of DeLand.

PHOTO BY SARAH JOSEPH

She left many West Volusians without power and with tree limbs strewn across many a street and yard but, fortunately, Irma largely spared the area from the full extent of her windy wrath.

As the storm exited Florida in the afternoon Monday, Sept. 11, and curfews were lifted, residents and business owners ventured out to see a city with foliage strewn about, homes and businesses largely in the dark, and almost no gasoline stations open. 

However, the storm for the most part didn’t bring the widespread destruction authorities and residents feared in the days leading up to Irma’s arrival.

“In the final analysis, overall, in terms of the city, we fared better than I expected as we were getting the reports,” DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar said. “That’s easy to say on a global perspective, but if it’s your house and it’s damaged, we understand that, but on a macro perspective, we did pretty well as a community.”

The storm did an estimated $231 million in damage to Volusia County, according to initial damage estimates produced by the Volusia County Property Appraiser’s Office. 

The damage includes $17.8 million in damage from 251 affected in DeLand; $2 million from 41 affected properties in Deltona; $1.8 million from 59 affected properties in DeBary; $3.6 million from 16 affected properties in Orange City; $12,763 from one affected property in Lake Helen; and $9.7 million in damage to ferneries and other agricultural properties.

Those numbers may increase, as the Property Appraiser’s Office is still inputting damage reports into its system.

Chris Graham, community-information specialist for the City of DeLand, said Tuesday morning that the city completed its initial damage survey, and found “few residential structures that sustained major damage.”

“Public Works estimates that Hurricane Irma created about 30,000 cubic yards of tree debris in DeLand,” he said. “We received reports of 100 trees and 44 power lines down.”

Apgar said, based on his personal observations and the reports he had received, he thought the city sustained less structural damage than during Hurricane Matthew.

As for all that tree debris, he said, the city staff is in contact with a FEMA contractor to arrange collection.

Andrew Gant, a spokesman for the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, said his agency didn’t respond to any overly notable storm-related calls in West Volusia, although it did have to use a specialized vehicle to do a few high-water rescues on the east side of the county.

Gant provided a list of calls about structural damage that came into the Sheriff’s Office dispatch center, which handles dispatch for all of the county’s law-enforcement agencies. 

There were 12 calls from West Volusia throughout the storm: five in DeLand, five in Orange City and two in Deltona.

In one instance, a tree went through the roof of a home on New Bedford Drive in DeLand. According to a Volusia County Sheriff’s Office dispatch log, the five people in the home were hiding in a hallway, covered by a mattress. 

Eventually, all of the occupants of the home got out and went to a neighbor’s house.

The DeLand Police Department didn’t respond to any rescues in West Volusia, either.

“We really didn’t have any rescues to speak of,” spokesman Graham said. “It was a quiet evening, considering.”

A couple hundred structures throughout the city did suffer damage, however.

“We estimate about 250 structures were at least affected by the hurricane,” Graham said. “A lot of it was minor. We had a couple of mobile homes which were majorly damaged.”

- Anthony DeFeo, anthony@beacononlinenews.com


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ...

POWER

As of noon Wednesday, Volusia County officials said Florida Power & Light had 85,940 customers with power and 61,800 customers without; Duke Energy had 32,000 customers with power and 38,700 customers without; and the Clay Electric Cooperative, which serves part of Northwest Volusia, had 2,101 customers with power and 2,075 customers without.

Catherine Butler, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, said customers can expect power to come on gradually in homes and neighborhoods as necessary repairs are made.

“It’ll happen in waves as we’re able to get through certain restoration processes. It’s very complex; there’s certain transmission lines that need to be restored; then we can work on substations, and then we can get power to individual houses.”

Typically, utilities try to do the work first that will restore power to the most homes, moving down the list to smaller restorations.

One home or business can end up with power while another one adjacent to it might not, depending on which lines are damaged, Butler said.

Duke Energy expects to complete power restoration to Volusia County by midnight Sunday, Sept. 17.

DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar said he encourages neighbors with power to help those without, for example, by offering them a reprieve from the heat in an air-conditioned house, or perhaps a hot shower.

 

COMMUNICATIONS OUTAGES

Many Spectrum customers have also reported cable-service and internet outages, even if their power has returned.

In some instances, Charter Communications, which provides the Spectrum-branded services, itself is waiting on power restoration.

“Charter Communications restoration is in full swing — as our network relies on commercial power, we are working closely with the power companies to restore services to the areas impacted by Hurricane Irma,” said Charter spokesman Joe Durkin. “It’s possible for you to have commercial power locally but still not have cable service due to a power outage further along our network.”

Durkin could not give an exact timeline on when restoration would be completed, but said crews are out and working to restore service as quickly as possible.

Some wireless networks, such as AT&T Wireless, are also having service issues, due in part to power outages at their facilities. 

“Wireless services in some parts of Florida are being affected by significant power outages and other storm damage,” said AT&T spokeswoman Rosie Montalvo. “Our technicians are working to restore service to affected areas as quickly and safely as conditions allow.”

 

GASOLINE

Gasoline shortages were a persistent problem throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, with lines of cars reminiscent of the oil crises of the 1970s at the few stations with supplies of gas.

A good resource to check which stations have gasoline is the website tracker.gasbuddy.com. 

The site crowdsources information from motorists about the status of stations in their area. You can also update information about gas stations you come across, to help other motorists who may be searching for fuel. 

RaceTrac, which has several stations in West Volusia, is keeping an updated list posted to www.racetrac.com/gasshortage of stations with gas available.

 

SCHOOLS

Nancy Wait, director of community information for Volusia County Schools, said Wednesday that the district was in recovery mode and that schools will remain closed through Friday, Sept. 15. 

Wait said 24 schools sheltered and fed more than 4,000 people during the storm. 

George Marks Elementary School in DeLand had a tree fall on the roof of its kindergarten building, which suffered significant damage. Kindergarten classes will be relocated to another building at the school. 

“By remaining closed this week, it will provide time for repairs to schools, the return of families and employees who may have evacuated, and restoration of utilities,” Wait said Wednesday. “Currently, only 78 percent of east-side schools have power, and 53 percent of west-side schools have power. Preliminary inspections indicate no catastrophic damages to schools; however, there is some roof damage and water intrusion at several schools.”

Stetson University decided Tuesday to cancel undergraduate classes through Friday, Sept. 15, saying on the university’s Facebook page that “pending notification from Duke Energy, the earliest classes would resume is Monday, Sept. 18.”

 

RIVER FLOODING

In addition to flooding from storm surge in some East Volusia locations, some residents near the St. Johns River in locales such as Astor have reported flooding. 

According to an Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service gauge at Astor, the river rose above its flood stage of 2.8 feet Sunday, crested at 4.4 feet Wednesday in Astor, and was set to remain above flood stage at least through Sunday, Sept. 17.

 

WATER

In most West Volusia locales, the water is safe to drink. 

The City of DeLand issued a boil-water notice to 27 homes in the Country Club Estates area, but that precaution was lifted Wednesday. 

The Town of Pierson has issued a boil-water notice until further notice. The town advises people to boil water at a rolling boil for at least one minute and disinfect it by adding eight drops of unscented household bleach per gallon of water. Then, let the water stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy after 30 minutes, repeat the procedure. Use only bottled water for mixing baby formula, the town said.

Pierson said the quality of the drinking water may have been compromised because of a loss of pressure that occurred due to a power outage, possibly allowing the infiltration of bacteria into the waterlines.

 

JOSE

As of the 11 a.m. Wednesday advisory, the National Hurricane Center was not expecting Hurricane Jose to affect Florida. The latest forecast track showed the storm recurving out to sea.

 

TREE DEBRIS

Volusia County will collect hurricane debris in unincorporated areas and on county roads located in cities. The start date will be determined after crews have completed their assessment of 1,000-plus miles of county roadway.

The county asked residents to remain patient, as debris contractors are strained with the Hurricane Harvey response in Texas and the Hurricane Irma response across the state.

Residents who can safely do so are asked to place storm-related debris on the public right of way. The public right of way is the area of residential property that extends from the street to the sidewalk, ditch, utility pole or easement. 

Do not place hurricane debris in the road. This obstructs traffic, hinders cleanup and power restoration efforts, and makes it difficult for emergency vehicles to pass. 

Volusia County haulers will not pick up hurricane debris that is mixed with normal household garbage. Residents should sort debris into separate piles for vegetative debris, construction debris (including wooden fences) and household goods. Do not place vegetative debris in yard bags. 

Normal procedures will apply for household garbage. If you have a small amount of yard debris, normal collection rules will apply. If you are performing the cleanup yourself or using volunteers, you may place the debris curbside away from fire hydrants, power lines and mailboxes. 

Do not block drainage ditches or inlets. If you hire a contractor to handle large tree debris or household damage, make sure the contractor knows he or she is required to take the debris to the proper landfill. Contractors are required by law to dispose of debris properly; they may place it in the right of way.

The City of DeLand said it will release information soon about how residents can rid themselves of fallen tree limbs and the like.

For now, residents should pile debris in the rights of way in front of their homes — but not in the actual street, as that could create additional problems, city officials noted.

Residents are urged not to burn storm debris.

 

WATER BILL

In DeLand, if a resident’s utility bill was due during the week of Sept. 11-15, the bill due date will be extended; the bill will need to be paid before Tuesday, Sept. 19. 

 

WIND

The weather station on the DeLand Municipal Airport reported sustained winds of up to 40 mph Sunday night. It recorded a gust of 62 mph at 12:15 a.m. on Monday, before going offline. 

Throughout Sunday and Monday, the station recorded 6.56 inches of rain Sunday and 0.16 inches in 15 minutes Monday before the station stopped reporting data at 12:15 a.m.

Other nearby observations include:

Near Hole 2 in Victoria Hills, DeLand: 45 mph at 7:48 a.m. Monday, and 8.43 inches of rain Sunday and Monday

Fowler Drive in Deltona: 51 mph at 3:11 a.m. Monday, with 7.45 inches of rain Sunday and Monday

Orlando-Sanford International Airport in Seminole County: Peak wind gusts of 74 mph on Monday and 73 mph Sunday, with 9.72 inches of rain Sunday and Monday

Leesburg International Airport in Lake County: Peak wind gusts of 69 mph Monday and 65 mph Sunday, with 8.1 inches of rain Sunday and Monday.

 

FEMA HELP

Individual Assistance from FEMA is now available for Volusia County residents who sustained damage from Hurricane Irma to their primary residence, have losses not covered by insurance, or are underinsured. Register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, or by calling FEMA’s toll-free registration number at 800-621-FEMA (3362). Applicants who use 711 or Video Relay Service may also call 800-621-3362. People who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and a TTY, may call 800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362. Multilingual operators are available.

— Anthony DeFeo

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