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Central Florida counties survey road damage as floodwater from Hurricane Ian recedes

Hardee County flooding road damage Hurricane Ian Gabriella Paul
Courtesy of Hardee County
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A portion of Highway 64, near Pioneer Park, in Hardee County cratered during Hurricane Ian.

Roads neighboring waterways throughout Polk, Highlands, Hardee and DeSoto counties require emergency repair following Hurricane Ian.

After making landfall near Cayo Costa, Hurricane Ian crossed through south central Florida counties, causing historic flooding.

Two weeks later, flood warnings remain in place for areas bordering the Peace River, Myakka River and Horse Creek throughout Polk, Highlands, Hardee and DeSoto counties.

On Monday, the Peace River was measured around 18 feet, according to a Hardee County spokesperson. This is down from record-breaking levels of 27 feet at its peak, with water levels expected to recede to minor flood status of 16 feet by Thursday.

Hardee County flooded roads Hurricane Ian Gabriella Paul
Courtesy of Hardee County
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Hollandtown Road, in Hardee County, is washed out by floodwater in the aftermath of Ian. The roadway remained closed as of Tuesday, Oct. 11.

As floodwater retreats in south central Florida counties, the full picture of roadway destruction from Hurricane Ian is now coming into view.

Local and state announcements show these roads and bridges remain closed, as of Oct. 11:

  • Hardee County

    • North Hollandtown Road at Thoroughbred Road – Lane closed, both directions
    • SR-64 from Brantwood Drive to Wilbur C. King Boulevard – Lane closed, both directions
    • Fishbranch Road
    • Bronco Drive
    • Redge Rainey
    • Post Plant Road
    • Solomon Road
    • Johns Road
    • South Barlow Road
    • Center Hill Road - near Palmer Road
    • Maude Road 
    • Ten Mile Grade - east of Scarborough
  • Highlands County

    • Golfview Road at Lake Drive Boulevard – Lane closed, both directions
    • Marble Avenue from W Martin Road to S Lake Boulevard – Lane closed, both directions
  • DeSoto County

    • NW 2nd Bunker Avenue at Arrowhead Pond Road – Lane closed, both directions
    • SR-72 Westbound beyond SR-70 – All lanes closed
    • SR-72 from NW Pearce Street to SR-70 – Lane closed

Christopher Simpron is the director of public works in Hardee County, where he says limited resources have made repairing roadways more challenging.

Hardee County maintains roughly 500 miles of roadways, including around 100 miles of dirt roads and 60 bridges that were impacted.

On Tuesday, Simpron said around a dozen roads will require intensive repairs, including three collapsed bridges and three cratered streets.

Hardee County flooded roads Hurricane Ian Gabriella Paul
A collapsed culvert on St. Johns Road in Hardee County disrupts traffic flow. Public works officials say that twelve roads demand critical repairs.
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Courtesy of Hardee County
A collapsed culvert on St. Johns Road in Hardee County disrupts traffic flow. Public works officials say that twelve roads demand critical repairs.

“It will take us time to get this done — even for emergency repairs — because it will just take a significant amount of resources, staff and equipment to repair the roadways,” Simpron said.

Ahead of Hardee County schools reopening on Monday, around 40 crewmen have been working to assess damaged roadways and conduct emergency repairs.

"We wanted to make sure that we have safe, reliable infrastructure post-storm,” Simpron said.

The next plan of action will be to request additional support from the Florida Department of Transportation.

He hopes the same attention and support provided to Lee County to rebuild major access roads, like the Sanibel Causeway, will soon be extended to Hardee County.

“There’s no way we can do this by ourselves,” Simpron said. “We need assistance at some point.”

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.