Polk County scales back Dorian response but still braced for strong wind, heavy rains

Polk County

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) — Prepare for the worst but hope for the best. That’s the message from Polk County’s Office of Emergency Management as the threat from Hurricane Dorian veers east.

The latest advisory shows most of Polk County no longer in the storm’s path, except for the easternmost parts of Polk.

Emergency management is scaling back but not ceasing hurricane operations. The county announced Saturday no shelters would be opened.

While many are breathing a sigh of relief, emergency staff are remaining vigilant over the coming days and the emergency operations center will remain open through at least Tuesday.

Mobilizing for Dorian has also created a vital training simulation for the county, allowing it to put all the moving pieces of storm response into place without being faced with devastation. Emergency Management Director Paul Womble says the county learned lessons from Irma in 2017 that they put into practice this week, including improvements to the county’s special needs response.

“You can always do better, you always want to learn,” Womble said. “We want to strive to be better, so that’s a big part of what we’ll do now.”

Winter Haven resident Dave Rounds had never been through a hurricane until he moved to Polk County. Then he experienced three back to back in 2004, teaching him to be ready for anything.

“I made sure I topped off my gas tanks, picked up some emergency supplies,” Rounds said while picking up groceries. “Even if you don’t think it’s going to be a direct hit, just be ready for it.”

With part of Polk County still projected to see tropical storm strength winds and heavy rains in the coming days, both Womble and Rounds know they’re not out of the woods just yet.

“I never take for granted that it’s not going to change direction again,” Rounds said.

As of Saturday, schools in Polk County are scheduled to be closed Tuesday and Wednesday due to weather.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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