Storm Cleanup

Roger Olson of DeLand Parks and Recreation picks up debris from Hurricane Dorian on the grounds of the Memorial Hospital and Veteran's Museum in DeLand on Thursday, Sept. 5.

American flags were up and flying quickly, movie theatres opened while winds were still blowing and people were out in force enjoying a meal at their favorite restaurant or a drink at their favorite bar after realizing Hurricane Dorian spared its wrath on the entire county, and Florida in general.

Schools and city and county services also resumed quickly.

Volusia County Manage George Recktenwald said, “To say we dodged a bullet for the storm would be an understatement. Obviously, we dodged a missile.”

According to the Volusia County Emergency Management website, the initial assessment of Volusia beaches shows no significant infrastructure damage. A combination of a king tide and increased surf from the storm caused slight erosion at ramps and removed some conservation zone poles. Staff were working to replace conservation poles, toll booths and trash receptacles, even as the beach was already reopened.

The Edgewater Public Library sustained some minor damage and the Daytona Beach Main Street Pier’s fishing end sustained some structural damage underneath.

Power and cable outages were short lived and debris, such as branches or palm fronds, although prevalent are no different than what one might expect in a typical Florida summer thunderstorm.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood did implore citizens to be aware of potential scammers, especially regarding roofing, tree trimming and electrical work.

Volusia Chair Ed Kelley thanked everyone for their patience during and leading up to the storm.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out now to our neighbors in the South in the Bahamas. They had what we were expecting and planning for.”

Chair Kelley further advised sandbags should be saved as it is still the middle of hurricane season.

Jim Judge, Volusia emergency management director, said “I certainly give the county staff an A-plus. All of our protective actions, our preparedness, I think everybody came together and did an incredible job. The school district was outstanding with our sheltering, animal services was outstanding, our beach patrol were terrific, they helped augment the staffing and assistance at the shelters. The Red Cross was wonderful.

“Twenty miles closer to the west, we would have had category one, two or even higher winds. You just can’t sit back and hope; you’ve got to prepare. And prepare we did.

“There’s always going to be lessons learned,” Mr. Judge said. “We are in-house looking at things that we could do differently. We are working on that now. We want to know what we did well, so we keep doing it. But, also, what are some of the things we can enhance, improve and work on. This community is absolutely amazing at how well we work together, how well we support each other and deal with these events.”

He added he thought citizens took preparedness seriously. Fifteen shelters were opened that people used, which he was pleased to see, along with homes boarded up.

Daytona Beach Police Capt. Steve Szabo also weighed in on post Dorian observations.

“As far as I am concerned, I think everybody county-wide did exactly what they should have done,” Capt. Szabo said. “We took this as a serious threat. In all my years of working with emergency management in a police department in a city, I have never been as concerned as I was with this storm on late Monday and early Tuesday just looking at the Bahamas. We are so fortunate we received very little from this storm. It is obvious we should take those preparations seriously.

“I think everybody did a great job getting the message out to our citizens,” he said. “People went out early to get their supplies, their food, their water, their gas unlike in years previous. I think the businesses anticipated better. I can’t say enough for the partnerships, the cooperation. This was the best choreographed preparedness and response I’ve seen in my career and I started with Port Orange back in 1974, so it’s not like I haven’t seen some hurricanes, tornadoes. All of the bad things that could have happened, did not.”

He added Daytona Beach police had a great working relationship with the other cities and the county. Further that the county did a great job with coordinating bridge closings, sheltering, evacuations, curfews, with everyone working together.

“I have nothing but good stuff to say about our response to the storm” Capt. Szabo said. “I’m happy we responded the way we did and prepped the way we did.”

Capt. Szabo further stated public works prepping and clearing storm drains and drawing down retention ponds probably paid big dividends, too. Crime during the storm was almost nonexistent in Daytona and communication and technology is much better than in prior years with people in leadership roles knowing exactly what to do.

“We had a pretty good idea of what we needed to do, and we did it” he said.

His department will also review how things were handled and if something could have been done better, they will fix it.

Even animals fared well during the storm. Halifax Humane Society implemented the Storm Trooper program the weekend prior to Hurricane Dorian. The program asks people who are evacuating or who have a safe haven, to foster an animal throughout the storm and then either return the animal once they return to the area or come in to adopt the animal if they wish.

“We had 127 people step up to be Storm Troopers. We have already heard from many of these people stating they have decided to adopt the animal they fostered”, said Barry KuKes, HHS community outreach director. Citizens donated their time, pet food, and supplies for the animals during Hurricane Dorian.

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