BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) — Residents along the Peace River fear what will happen when a major hurricane hits as average late summer Florida thunderstorms have already been flooding places around the river for weeks.
“With a hurricane coming it can be twice as high to three times as high,” said Phil Black, who lives at Peace River Village Mobile Home Park.
His mobile home has been surrounded by water for days at a time in recent weeks. The remnants of that flooding are just about gone as Hurricane Ian makes its way north.
“I’m worried. That’s all you can be is worried, you know,” Black said. “That’s not good. It makes it where you don’t know how it will turn out.”
“I think in two months, we’ve got over 30 inches of rain in Bartow with me keeping tabs myself,” said Felix Atkinson, Black’s neighbor.
Atkinson fought back tears talking about his frustrations living in a place that regularly floods.
“Just the fact of the matter, we just have a pretty rough time,” he said.
The Peace River is a major concern for county officials as they monitor the track of Hurricane Ian.
“The record crest there is 11.3 feet and that was in September of 2004, so we’re set up now in this forecast to potentially meet and exceed that record,” said Paul Womble, Polk County emergency management director.
Three hurricanes; Charley, Frances, and Jeanne, consecutively hit Polk County in 2004.
There are similarities between the forecasted track of Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Ian.
Charley was forecasted to make landfall in Pinellas or Sarasota counties and took a turn to the east at the last moment.
“Polk County and Charley made landfall in Charlotte County, they were in that cone of uncertainty. The cone is the key. That’s where the eye could go. The center of the storm could be anywhere inside that cone,” Womble said.
Womble and his team are monitoring Ian, noting that any movement east or west could have a significant impact on Polk County.
Womble anticipates high winds to be an issue in the short-term but serious flooding could take weeks to recede.
Some areas could get anywhere between six inches and 12 inches of rain in a short amount of time.
“We’re about two days away from impacts in the Tampa Bay region of a major hurricane, the likes that Tampa Bay has not seen in 100 years,” said Womble.
Womble urged anyone in flood-prone areas or mobile homes to find shelter at a friend or family member’s home. If that is not possible, the county will have shelters available.
“If the water just keeps getting too high, we’re out of here,” Atkinson said.
Polk County Emergency Management has activated the Citizen’s Information Line to answer Hurricane Ian-related questions.
Further updates will be provided if conditions change. The Citizen’s Information Line can be reached at (863) 401-2234 (locally) or toll-free 866-661-0228.
The line will remain open during business hours throughout the storm. Information is also available on PGTV (Spectrum 644, Comcast 5 or Frontier 20), or check the county website for updates at www.polk-county.net and Polk’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Shelters are available in Polk County beginning at noon Tuesday:
|Horizons Elementary School||1700 Forest Lake Dr, Davenport|
|Sleepy Hill Elementary School||2285 Sleepy Hill Rd, Lakeland|
|R. Bruce Wagner Elementary School||5500 Yates Rd, Lakeland|
|Chain Of Lakes Elementary School||7001 Hwy 653, Winter Haven|
|Mulberry Middle School||500 SE Martin Luther King Jr Ave, Mulberry|
|Spessard Holland Elementary||2342 E.F. Griffin Rd, Bartow|
|Auburndale High School||1 Bloodhound Trail, Auburndale|
|Citrus Ridge Academy||1775 Sand Mine Rd, Davenport|
|George Jenkins High School||6000 Lakeland Highlands Rd, Lakeland|
|Highlands Grove Elementary||4510 Lakeland Highlands Rd, Lakeland|
|Kathleen High School||1100 Red Devil Way, Lakeland|
|Lake Marion Creek Middle School||3055 Lake Marion Creek Dr, Poinciana|
|Winter Haven High School||600 6th St SE, Winter Haven|
Pet friendly shelters that will be open Tuesday, September 27 at 12:00 p.m. are located here:
|Tenoroc High School||4905 Saddle Creek Rd., Lakeland|
|Lake Region High School||1995 Thunder Road, Eagle Lake|
|Haines City High School||2800 Hornet Drive, Haines City|
Pet owners must bring shot records for their pets, an airline-approved carrying case or crate and pet food.
Special Needs shelters will also open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, for those residents with special medical needs. Polk County Emergency Management’s Special Needs Program is designed to provide shelter and/or transportation for residents with medical or physical conditions and/or dependent on medical electrical equipment who require assistance during an emergency.
The Special Needs shelters are located at:
|FDOH Polk Specialty Care Unit||1255 Brice Blvd., Bartow|
|McKeel Academy||1810 W. Parker St., Lakeland|
|Ridge Community High School||500 Orchid Dr., Davenport|