Volusia Emergency Management official urges residents to take hurricane season seriously
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Hurricane season officially kicked off on June 1 and Devonne Long is one of the local residents wasting no time preparing for it. The season runs to Nov. 30 with a peak season from August through October.
Last year, Volusia County didn’t experience a hurricane but locals remember the vengeance of the last two – Irma in September 2017 and Matthew in October 2016.
Long said she and several other relatives spent four days in a shelter during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
“It’s imperative because food and fuel runs out and it’s not safe to travel during storms. Get what you can now; don’t procrastinate,” she urges other residents.
‘Get ready now’
Local authorities are echoing that same appeal.
“There is no time to waste. Even though the highest potential is in August and September, we already had a storm form that didn’t affect us, said Tom Cisco, operations coordinator for Volusia County Emergency Management Services. “People need to get ready now and make plans.’’
Past storms’ impact
Irma’s aftermath was reported to have impacted more than 7,400 buildings in Flagler and Volusia counties with an estimated $451 million in damages.
The National Hurricane Center attributed 129 total deaths to Irma across the Caribbean and southern United States with damages exceeding $53 billion.
A Daytona Beach woman, who died of carbon monoxide from a generator, was among the fatalities.
Hurricane Matthew’s death toll was 603 with $16.4 billion in damages.
Days after the hurricane lashed Florida’s east coast in October 2016, many area residents were struggling with property and road damage, power outages, water damage in homes, downed and dangling power lines along with toppled and snapped trees.
Five of 11 deaths in the state were in Volusia County.
Having to deal with getting financial and food assistance after Hurricane Matthew was “a rough experience,’’ Long recalled. The experience has prompted her to get a plan early.
She took advantage of the state’s tax-free holiday on storm items like generators from June 1 to June 6.
“I am trying to find some good deals. It’s important to get items now while prices are low. Living on a fixed income, I can’t afford a generator but there are some key items that you can get from places like Dollar Tree which helps,” she told the Daytona Times.
Where you’ll go
Along with hurricane items, residents should have a plan in case they need to evacuate their homes.
Decide now where you will stay if an evacuation order is issued. Arrange to stay with friends or relatives who live well inland as possible. For those without alternatives, the county will set up shelters at key locations across the county.
There are 35 storm shelters listed in Volusia County. Most are public schools.
“We open them up on a need by need basis, not all at once. People should check our website, our app and media outlets for information on when and where they open,” Cisco noted.
Emergency management officials encourage residents to prepare for potential land-falling during a tropical storm or hurricane by doing the following:
- Download the Volusia County emergency preparedness app. The app is available for download in the Google Play store and via the Apple store.
- Create a family preparedness plan, which is a checklist of items you’ll need during an emergency. For help creating a personalized family disaster plan, visit www.floridadisaster.org.
- Consider purchasing flood insurance, which is typically not covered under a homeowner’s insurance policy. It can take up to 30 days after purchase for a flood insurance policy to take effect. If a hurricane is within 500 miles of Florida, flood insurance policies will not be written. To learn about flood insurance visit www.floodsmart.gov.
What’s on the app
A lot of emergency management information can be found on the app, which includes weather alerts, current conditions, preparedness checklists, links to county sites, shelter status, locations of the nearest open shelter, sandbag information, evacuation information, push notifications and more.
The app also aids in the damage assessment process as residents can submit damage reports along with picture documentation.
Cisco stressed, “People should download our app, which is easy and accessible. There is a lot you can do and find out by using it.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also lists do-it-yourself steps for homeowners to help protect their property.
- Install storm shutters to protect windows from strong winds.
- Identify a place to secure outdoor items like furniture, garden tools, toys and garbage cans. Strong winds can turn these items into projectiles that may damage homes and cause injuries.
- Clean gutters and downspouts. Leaves, twigs and debris can clog them and prevent rainwater from efficiently draining away from homes.
Volusia offering Hurricane Matthew assistance
Beginning June 7, Volusia County will accept applications from income-eligible homeowners whose residence was damaged by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Funds are available to replace damaged mobile or manufactured homes on rented or owned lots and to repair or reconstruct damaged single-family homes.
Applications and program details can be found online at www.volusia.org/hurricane-matthew-housing.
Application packets can also be picked up at these locations:
- Volusia County’s Community Assistance office,110 W. Rich Ave., DeLand
- Volusia County’s Human Services offices at 123 W. Indiana Ave., Room 101, DeLand
- 775 Harley Strickland Blvd., Suite 104, Orange City
- 717 Canal St., New Smyrna Beach
All branches of the Volusia County Public Library system
Completed applications and additional documents are being accepted by mail or in person at the address noted in the application packet.
Residents in need of assistance must be able to document that the home was damaged due to the storm and meet federal income-eligibility requirements. Additional restrictions apply, Community Assistance staff will work with residents to process applications and determine eligibility.
For more information, visit www.volusia.org/hurricane-matthew-housing or call 386-736-5955.