Through preparation and precaution, the Apopka community has been bracing itself for the wrath of Hurricane Irma, which reportedly would hit Central Florida come Sunday.
City staff met Tuesday, September 5, to prepare for the possibility of severe weather including heavy rain, flooding, high winds and flying debris. Apopka is coordinating hurricane response with Orange County, state and federal emergency management offices.
According to information from the city, Apopka crews have been checking backup electric generators to assist municipal utilities, traffic signals and buildings in case of power outages during the storm. Storm drains are being checked for debris.
Contractors for several city construction projects are clearing those areas of large items that may blow away in high winds. The city’s Community Development Department requested private builders to minimize the amount of materials that could fly away from construction sites, information from the city says.
Irma has reportedly made history as one of the most powerful storms to rip through the Atlantic Ocean. As of late morning on Friday, September 8, the storm was a Category 4 between the Bahamas and Cuba, with maximum sustained winds at 150 mph and moving west-northwest at 14 mph, according to forecasts from the National Hurricane Center.
Irma should hit Florida around Sunday morning, but local impacts from the hurricane will become clearer by Saturday as the storm approaches Florida.
Potential changes to Apopka’s solid waste collection service on Monday will be determined as Hurricane Irma approaches closer to the city.
Certain city offices will close at 2 p.m. Friday to allow public employees to prepare for the storm with their families.
Although hurricanes have often been unpredictable in its strength and path, residents are well aware that preparation is the key to getting through any hurricane.
Businesses have been swamped with customers who are stocking up with supplies, especially food and water. On Wednesday, September 6, shelves at the Apopka Walmart Supercenter were cleared of many products, notably bread, peanut butter, water, and canned meat.
A line waiting for a new stock of bottled water formed in the Walmart diary section – where the stock room entrance is – and stretched through the neighboring baby and shoe sections before looping around and reaching toward the registers at the store’s front.
Apopka resident Robin Campbell, who was shopping at Walmart with her friend Shanette Harris, said that she is “a bit terrified” about Irma’s strength. However, she and Harris, along with Campbell’s son, her brother and three dogs and a cat, are doing what they can do to get ready.
“We’ll have everyone in the house. The cars will be in the garage,” Campbell said. “We’ll be praying.”
Luis Navarro of Orlando, who dropped his wife off at her job in Apopka, was purchasing supplies at Walmart too. He said he could understand it’s a hurricane but it’s best to be prepared every time.
“For us, it’s year in and year out that we get hurricanes,” he said.
The new Tractor Supply Company, which originally scheduled a September 16 soft opening, decided on the evening of Tuesday, September 5 to open its doors on September 6 so it could help provide residents with emergency storm supplies.
The new location is the northeast corner of South Washington Avenue, Second Street and U.S. Highway 441.
“The business community has been helpful,” city spokesman Robert Sargent said.
Also on September 6 as well as yesterday, Thursday, September 7, the city of Apopka distributed sandbags to the public as part of the storm preparation at Edwards Field, 11 Forest Ave.
On Wednesday, 10,000 bags were made available, at 10 per household maximum. Three to four sand mounds were going on at once to keep the car line moving, which snaked on the grounds of Edwards Field. Otherwise, the line would have wrapped around the neighboring Florida Hospital campus, Sargent said.
At around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 7,000 bags were given out, according to Sargent.
The city has been giving storm preparedness tips since last June, the beginning of the hurricane season that often ends in November. Regardless of a hurricane’s path or its category, it’s best to get ready, Sargent said.
“This (Irma) is a record storm, but we’re monitoring it hour by hour,” he said.
The city is giving out sandbags today, Friday, September 8, at the same location until 6 p.m. The city has shovels available.
Affected community events
Because of Irma, community activities were cancelled or postponed. The Apopka BBQ Showdown and Steak Cookoff, presented by Flame Boss, was originally scheduled for September 8 and 9 at the Northwest Recreation Complex. The city is speaking with event organizers and sponsors about a new date.
An annually scheduled city activity on Monday to recognize the events of September 11, 2001, is cancelled.
Yesterday, the Apopka Food Truck Roundup proceeded as scheduled at Kit Land Nelson Park.
The city has been providing information and updates at www.apopka.net and on the city’s Facebook page. To track Hurricane Irma’s progress, visit the National Hurricane Center online at www.nhc.noaa.gov.