Saturday is the last official day of the Atlantic hurricane season. The 2019 version featured 18 named storms, an above-average number, six hurricanes and three major (Category 3 or higher) storms.
Locally, Hurricane Dorian was the most noteworthy, forcing local residents to enact their own storm plans — filling sandbags, topping off gas tanks and making familiar runs to stores for bottled water and canned goods — in the days surrounding the Labor Day weekend.
Osceola County Emergency Operations Director Bill Litton, who’s been in that position a little over a year after spending some two decades doing a lot of the same work in Seminole County, headed up the full activation efforts of emergency officials, which he said was “excellent across the board”.
“The team worked well. Although we were blessed we didn’t have a Florida landfall, it was a great way of getting everyone through the process,” Litton said. “If it had kept on the early track and come through here, you would have seen much of the same damage you saw in the Bahamas.” Litton added that residents’ response to the storm threat was very good, too.
“The word was out. This isn’t new, we’ve had a threat three of the last four years,” he said. “They did what we asked them to do — make preparations, and stay put once we put in a curfew. I was out a couple of those nights and there wasn’t really anybody out. That’s what we like to see. People know what they should have in their emergency kits and not to wait until the last minute. “
The flooding images from the 2017 passing of Hurricane Irma, was behind the evacuation of Good Samaritan Village.
“We made that call, and it worked out because of our partnership with their sister facilities in Deltona and Deland,” Litton said.
And now that hurricane season is ending, it doesn’t mean Emergency Operations staff turns off the computers and waits until June. There are other events and weather threats in the winter, like tornadoes and wild fires. Severe Weather Awareness Week is the week of Jan. 27, and the EOC will be putting forth education to the public, including a children’s program, so keep an eye on the EOC’s Facebook Page and Twitter feeds (@OsceolaEOC).
“At this time of the year we’re shifting gears,” Litton said. “These days we might be doing training. We just made a visit to one of the local health care facilities to go over their emergency plan. We’re also coodinating with partners, like KUA, getting to know those people so when we pick up the phone in case of a mobilization, it isn’t he first time we’re talking to them.”