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Disaster spending survey results are in for Orange County

Image of a flooded parking lot in east Orange County in 2022, shortly after Hurricane Ian struck. Image was captured from a helicopter surveying the area from above.
Via Facebook
Parts of Central Florida were still flooded for several days after Hurricane Ian, as seen in this screengrab of helicopter video footage of a parking lot in east Orange County, captured by the Orange County Sheriff's Office (OCSO).

Orange County commissioners will hear a staff report Tuesday on results from a community survey made available to residents earlier this year, asking how the county should spend more than $219 million from a federal disaster recovery and mitigation program.

Nearly 55% of survey respondents said they’re still concerned about flooding and street drainage issues caused by Hurricane Ian. Just over 800 Orange County residents completed the survey between late September and mid-November.

The $219 million set aside for Orange County can also be used within the incorporated city of Orlando, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which allocated the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding earlier this year.

CDBG-DR funds are flexible grant dollars HUD can allocate to local governments, to help those governments rebuild disaster-impacted areas and create long-term solutions to mitigate future disasters.

All in all, HUD set aside more than $2.7 billion of CDBG-DR funds for the state of Florida, including Orange County’s allocation, plus nearly $329 million for Volusia County, which can also be used in the cities of Daytona Beach and Port Orange.

On Tuesday, Orange County commissioners will receive a staff report about prevention and mitigation strategies that community members think the county should prioritize for funding, based on survey results.

District 3 Commissioner Mayra Uribe said she wasn’t surprised by survey respondents’ concerns with flooding and street drainage. She said she expects those issues to persist, as long as heavy regional development continues without updating critical infrastructure.

“Water has to go somewhere,” Uribe said. “The standards that we have now for development — for retention ponds, swales and where water can run off — didn’t exist 20, 30 years ago, not to the extent that they do now.”

Orange County’s Vision 2050 plans will only further densify the heavily-populated region, Uribe said, and she understands why some residents are concerned about the impacts of heavy development.

Last year, Hurricane Ian flooded roads and damaged homes, not just on Florida’s coast but also in more inland areas, like Orange County. In Orlo Vista, a neighborhood just west of Orlando with a history of flooding, approximately 148 homes were damaged.

“People are scared. They’re very worried that this could happen again,” Uribe said. “They don’t want to go through what they went through again, and they want to make sure the county’s prepared, if this does happen again.”

County staff will make a recommendation Tuesday for how to spend the CDBG-DR funds, and a final action plan will be adopted during a public hearing on January 9, 2024.

Molly is an award-winning reporter with a background in video production and investigative journalism, focused on covering environmental issues for WMFE and WMFV.

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