Surviving a hurricane can be a scary ordeal, especially if you have special needs and can’t be without power, or care.
The mood at the Osceola County Council on Aging, the county’s special needs shelter, wasn’t scary Sunday. The mood was easy as the Florida Department of Health, who takes over the sheltering operations on behalf of the state, checked in those who wanted to ride out Hurricane Dorian somewhere where their special medical or physical needs could be met.
Severe storms seem like an annual late summer happening in Central Florida, so the process has practice. Just after noon on Sunday, the operation was a well-oiled machine.
Even Beverly Hougland, the Council’s CEO for nearly 25 years before retiring earlier this summer, was at the front desk Sunday helping however she could.
“I couldn’t not be here at a time like this,” she said with her familiar beaming smile.
About two dozen residents were already checked in and comfy at the Council on Aging at noon time Sunday. Capacity wasn’t an issue; staff said they can begin filling an auxiliary location if need be.
Residents who think they need a little help during the storm should not worry about any misconceptions they may have about a special needs shelter. Many residents have already registered with the council, which will help with getting a lift to and from the facility, but those who haven’t can call the Council and 407-846-8532 (they are manning the phones), or more permanently with Osceola County’s special needs helpline at 407-742-9001. You’ll use one of those numbers to arrange a ride.
(Because of state regulations, neither photos nor evacuee interviews were allowed inside the facility.)
If you’re coming, bring your personal bedding and hygiene items, as well as essential medications and other things that get you through the day.
Christin Hougland, a Council nursing administrator, said the doors are open.
“If you have a special need, you can come,” she said. “Capacity’s not a concern. Don’t stay home because you have a pet. If they have a crate, they can come and county Animal Services will take care of them during the storm. We’re here to help, and we’re ready.”
Osceola County has issued a mandatory evacuation for the Good Samaritan Village community, due to severe flooding experienced in prior storms (multiple airboat rescues occurred during 2017’s Hurricane Irma), and while the county plans to take Good Sam residents who have nowhere else to go to the St. Cloud Civic Center, some of them have pre-registered to come to the Council on Aging and had already arrived or were expected within the next day or so.