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Hurricane Ian recovery is slow, but progressing in Seminole County

Alan Harris, Chief Administrator for the Office of Emergency Management, Wednesday during a press conference at the Central Florida Zoo.
Alan Harris, Chief Administrator for the Office of Emergency Management, Wednesday during a press conference at the Central Florida Zoo.

Roads remain flooded and the pickup of debris across the county is ongoing.

Nearly a month after Hurricane Ian cut through Florida, Seminole County is still picking up the pieces.

About 85 trucks are currently removing debris left behind by the storm, 40% of which has been removed. Loose debris was in no shortage after Ian, although the county’s chief emergency manager, Alan Harris, said the debris wasn’t as prevalent as 2017’s Hurricane Irma. Seminole’s bigger problem lies in the lingering waters left behind by Ian’s historic level of flooding.

Seminole still has 41 roads closed due to inundated St. Johns River, primarily in Geneva but some roads remain affected in Sanford.

“Water is receding very slowly. Damage to these homes is becoming more apparent along these roadways as individuals can get back now into their homes and see what has occurred,” Harris said during a press conference at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, which reopened to the public Wednesday. 

Roads to the zoo have been cleared, but flood waters remain on the sides of the road near the zoo’s entrance. Harris likened the image to a scene out of “Jurassic Park,” complete with alligators in place of dinosaurs.

The need for help around Seminole is apparent

On Monday, the first day Seminole applicants could apply for the USDA’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or D-SNAP— the program received over 4,000 applicants looking for food assistance.

Seminole’s small businesses were also damaged by Ian, said Gui Cunha, Seminole’s administrator of economic development and tourism during the conference. Seminole alone had almost 130 small business administration business loan applications with $524,000 approved for assistance, so far, Cunha said.

Additionally, the Florida Department of Health’s environmental health division tested 196 wells in Seminole and found 29% faced problematic issues.

Federal and nonprofit assistance are on standby

Harris noted residents who are dealing with damages should first apply for insurance, and then apply for disaster assistance with FEMA either at the recovery center at Seminole State College’s main campus or online at prepareseminole.org

Over 24,000 FEMA applications have been filled out, and more than  $12.5 million in grant assistance has been provided for repairs, temporary housing and other storm related issues, Harris said.

“The FEMA has the disaster recovery center open seven days a week at the Seminole State College main campus. That is open from 9 AM to 6 PM. This includes, of course, weekends,” he said.

Residents in need of additional repair assistance can receive help; via a list of faith based nonprofit organizations willing to volunteer, by calling 407-665-0000.

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Joe Mario Pedersen