Okeechobee County prepares for hurricane; county offices to close at noon Friday; SFWMD to close Lake Okeechobee locks to boat traffic at 3 p.m. on Saturday

OKEECHOBEE – The Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners Thursday declared a state of emergency in Okeechobee County, starting at 8 a.m. Friday, Aug. 30, and lasting for the next seven days.

Fire/Rescue Chief Ralph Franklin said Governor DeSantis had already declared a state of emergency for the state.

Hurricane Dorian is expected to hit the east coast as a category 3 or category 4 hurricane sometime Sunday. The forecast cone covers the whole state, he explained.

Okeechobee County is likely to feel the effects of the storm on Sunday and Monday, he said.

“It is likely to be a slow moving storm,” said Chief Franklin.

On Friday morning, Okeechobee County will activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). With the exception of emergency services, Okeechobee County offices will close to the public at noon on Friday, to allow county staffers to shut down the computer servers and make necessary storm preparations.

The emergency declaration empowers Sheriff Noel Stephen to conduct mandatory evacuations and to declare curfews if needed.

Chief Franklin said the county will open emergency centers as needed. The shelter at South Elementary School will be a pet friendly shelter. Those who are already registered for the special medical needs shelter will be contacted by phone when that shelter opens. Anyone with special medical needs who is not already registered for that shelter can apply online on the county website http://www.co.okeechobee.fl.us. There is a link on the “emergency management” page.

Printed registration forms are also available at or a printed registration form (in English or Spanish) at Okeechobee County Emergency Management, 707 NW Sixth Street or the Okeechobee County Health Department, 1728 NW Ninth Ave. (Remember: All county offices close at noon on Friday, Aug. 30.)
For more information, contact the health department at 863-763-3212 or the emergency operations center at 863-462-5800.

The majority of persons assigned to a Special Needs Shelter are approved for that program because their medical condition requires them to be on required or life-sustaining oxygen and electric dependent, and therefore must evacuate to a shelter where generator backup would be available in case of a loss of electricity. Some persons who are not electrically dependent and are not able to perform their daily routine activities without assistance are also assigned to the Special Needs Shelter.
Sheriff Stephen encouraged all community members to prepare for the storm. “As the storm gets closer, the east coast will start evacuating,” he said. “Come Saturday morning, we will be inundated with traffic.”

Libby Pigman of South Florida Water Management District said all of the locks on Lake Okeechobee will close at 3 p.m. on Saturday and remain closed until the storm passes.

The Okeechobee City Council will meet at 1 p.m. on Friday to consider an emergency declaration for the city.
For continued updates, check the Lake Okeechobee News website at lakeokeechobeenews.com.

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