‘Please remain vigilant’: Osceola County stood ready for category 4 Dorian

Director of  Emergency Management, Bill Litton, and Operations Manager Richard Halquist work with the Logistics Section in the Emergency Operations Center in preparation for Hurricane Dorian.

As Hurricane Dorian churned in the Atlantic Ocean, Floridians braced for the Category 4 storm.

Osceola County issued a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying Good Samaritan Village in Kissimmee ahead of the storm. The 55 and older neighborhood flooded two years ago after Hurricane Irma.

The county issued a voluntary evacuation order for low-lying areas and manufactured and mobile homes.

Local schools were closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

St. Cloud, Harmony, Celebration and Liberty high schools and Horizon and Kissimmee middle school were designated shelters and opened to the public Monday afternoon. The Kenansville Community Center in rural southeastern Osceola also opened to those looking for shelter.

A shelter for people with special needs opened at the Osceola Council on Aging.

The Osceola School District asked parents to monitor the district’s website at www.osceolaschools.net and social media for the latest updates.  Parents will be notified through call-out messages and texts through the Remind system if urgent communications are needed.

The local Emergency Operations Center – a model used in most U.S. counties – was activated and brought together officials from local government, law enforcement and fire/emergency rescue.

A state of emergency was declared at the state and county levels last week, which allows government to perform actions not normally permitted, such as establishing a curfew.

Osceola County residents can get automatic updates from the EOC through the county’s Alert Osceola System by texting “alertosceola” (one word) to 888777 and then registering. Trash and recycling pick-ups were rescheduled for the end of the week.

The EOC, the Kissimmee Utility Authority and other local governments and agencies were providing local updates on Twitter (which can be used without having an account.)

County officials last week advised residents to establish contact information for utilities ahead of the storm.

“Please remain vigilant,” County Commission Chairman Cheryl Grieb said.

Dorian hit the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane then weakened to a Category 4.

Category 5 storms are rare. They have maximum sustained winds of 157 mph or greater, which can batter buildings and create catastrophic storm surge when they strike land.

Slow-moving Hurricane Dorian was the 35th Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the Weather Channel.

Dorian increased in wind speeds of at least 35 mph in a 24-hour period twice over the weekend, a rate of intensification never before observed for such a strong storm, the Washington Post reported.

Much of the U.S. southeastern seaboard started preparing of the storm last week, although evacuations and other logistics were delayed because of the storm’s precarious path.

For more information call Osceola’s Citizens Information Center 407-742-0000.