Area homes lose power; Trees down as hurricane winds hit Okeechobee County; Curfew may be lifted at 9 a.m.

Hurricane Irma brought power outages, downed trees and flooding to Okeechobee County on Sunday with more damage expected tonight as winds are expected to intensify.

  • By 4:15 p.m. Sunday, FPL reported that 4,826 customers in Okeechobee County had lost power. FPL crews are stationed in Okeechobee County and will be dispatched after the storm passes.
  • At 4:30 p.m., the county and city fire departments had to pull crews off the road due to high winds which made it unsafe for the trucks to be on the road. EMTs are stationed at the hurricane shelters.
  • At 5 p.m., Okeechobee County had sustained winds at 40 mph with bursts of higher speed winds. 
  • The sheriff’s office has an armored personnel carrier which was obtained through military surplus. Sheriff Noel Stephen said that this vehicle, driven by a deputy, has been staffed with EMTs and it will respond to medical emergencies. The heavy military vehicle can stay on the roads when the wind speeds make it too dangerous for the ambulances to travel.
  • The Red Cross shelter at South Elementary School is housing 511 persons. The Red Cross shelter at Osceola Middle School has 337 persons, with space still available for about 300 more. EMTs have been stationed at both of the shelters. Those who go to shelters are advised to bring their own bedding and supplies.
  • A lighting strike hit South Elementary School taking out three lightning arrest devices. As a result of the lightning strike, the air conditioning is not working at that shelter.
  • A large oak tree split and part of the tree is blocking S.W. 21st Street, at the curve at Seventh Avenue. Drivers are advised that after the storm it will take several hours to clear the debris. 
  • Potter Road has been closed due to flooding and concerns of water erosion.
  • Emergency operations director Mitch Smeykal will give a storm update on WOKC at 7 p.m.
  • Some residents continue to be confused about the curfew. The curfew which went into effect at 9 p.m. Saturday is in effect until the storm leaves the area. All non-essential travel is restricted. The sheriff expects to lift the curfew on Monday at 9 a.m., however the area will continue to be impacted by feeder bands, and there could be debris on the road as well as flooding. Even after the curfew is lifted, drivers are advised to be careful.
  • According to the National Hurricane Center, at 5:15 p.m. the storm was near Naples, with winds at 110 mph and gusts up to 135 mph. The storm is moving north at 14 mph. The biggest danger right now is the storm surge. Naples has seen a 4 ft. rise in the water on the coast.
  • Irma is a very large storm and is still considered a danger to the entire state.
  • Rainfall of 8-12 inches has been reported from the hurricane. Some areas of Florida could receive up to 20 inches of rain.
  • According to the 5:45 p.m. National Weather Service report, the storm is expected to move up the west coast and is expected to lose intensity at it travels north. Rain bands are expected to continue through the entire region for the next 12-18 hours.
  • The president approved a disaster declaration for the entire State of Florida earlier today (Sept. 10).
  • Okeechobee County Public Schools will be closed Monday. No decision has been made in regard to when schools will reopen. That decision will be made after the storm damages have been assessed and power restored.
  • Two tornadoes damaged homes in coastal Brevard County.
  • Okeechobee County is expected to receive 60-75 mph winds with gusts up to 85 mph tonight until early Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
  • Beach erosion is expected along much of the coastline.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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