FORT MEADE, Fla. (WFLA) – After slowly moving inland, the center of Hurricane Ian parked over southeastern Polk County for hours Wednesday night, dropping at least nine inches of rain and blowing hurricane-force winds over Fort Meade.
In the days since, recovery has moved smoothly, according to the city manager.
“It’s daunting when you think about it that way but I think what really showed in the city of Fort Meade is the community came together. We were prepared,” Fort Meade City Manager Jan Bagnall.
Many in Fort Meade may compare Hurricane Ian to Hurricane Charley in 2004, which is considered by some as more of a 10-mile wide tornado than a hurricane. In some ways, Bagnall considers Ian to be worse than Charley.
“A lot more rain, a lot slower moving and we were in an eye wall probably six hours,” he said.
Polk County Emergency Management is still working with the National Weather Service to understand the exact severity and conditions of Hurricane Ian in the county.
Fortunately for Fort Meade, its elevation is higher than other cities along the Peace River, so flooding has not been as much of a problem as in Bartow or nearby Wauchula in Hardee County, for example.
Still, a bridge over the Peace River on Mt. Pisgah Road washed out. It had been temporarily filled with an asphalt mixture on Monday, one step of many to recovery in Fort Meade.
Polk County began curbside pickup of hurricane debris in Fort Meade Monday. The county advises people to keep hurricane-related debris separate from other waste.
Bagged leaves, moss and twigs should be kept away from the limb pile.
“As you proceed with Hurricane Ian clean-up, please note that construction debris should NOT BE MIXED WITH yard waste and hurricane vegetation. Hurricane debris will be collected by a contracted vendor, not your normal service provider. If they are mixed, your waste may not be picked up,” instructions from the county read.
Residents do not have to register for debris pickup. They can just leave the debris on the curb. For questions, you can call the Hurricane Ian Debris hotline at (800) 375-0844.
Bagnall said power is mostly restored in Fort Meade, thanks to diligent work from local and out-of-state utility crews.
Crews from Decatur, AL and Greeneville, TN arrived late last week and have been working 15-hour days to fully restore power.
“We enjoy helping the people in need, serving the people and doing what we can for their community. That’s what it’s about,” said Marcus Light, a crew foreman from Greeneville Light & Power.
The city of Fort Meade expects power restoration to be completed by Monday evening. From there, the utility crews will likely move to other hard-hit areas for the next month.