Okeechobee hurricane shelter to open at 2 p.m. Friday

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County will open a hurricane shelter at South Elementary School, 2468 S.W. Seventh Ave., at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8.
Other shelters may be opened as needed over the weekend.

According to Mitch Smeykal, the county’s emergency management director, rain total amounts from Irma could be 8 to 10 inches.

Okeechobee County residents with special medical needs may go to the Special Needs shelter in Senn Center, 2000 Virginia Ave., Port St. Lucie. This shelter is for those who are dependent on oxygen or other medical equipment. For information, call 772-462-1521. Each special-needs person must be accompanied by a caregiver.

If the shelter at South Elementary is full, the second primary shelter at Osceola Middle School, 825 S.W. 28th St., will be the next shelter to open.

“We’re trying to find the timing to open shelters. It’s a timing issue right now,” said Mr. Smeykal. “The Red Cross started setting up shelters Thursday (Sept. 7), and if we have to open more shelters, we will announce openings at that time.

“We hope we can just open two because staffing will be problematic. However, we are training county and school board employees for staffing of shelters,” he added.

Shelter staffing is a problem all across Florida, he added, mainly because so many volunteers went to the Houston area to help out after Hurricane Harvey.

In other notices, the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office weekend work crew will not be working this weekend due to Irma. The sheriff’s office asks that you not show up or call them this weekend if you were slated to work.

Also, some complaints have been filed with the sheriff’s office regarding suspected price gouging. The sheriff’s office does not handle these cases. To file a price-gouging complaint, call 1-866-966-7226. Or, go online to www.myfloridalegal.com.

Elsewhere, the Okeechobee City Police Department (OCPD) will have officers on the streets until the winds become too dangerous. Their biggest message to citizens is to remain calm and not panic if you are planning on staying here for the storm.

The OCPD also recommends everyone download the Okeechobee County Emergency Management page at the Google Play Store for Android or the App Store for iPhones because it constantly updates vital information.

Also, the point of distribution after the storm passes will be the Okeechobee County Agri-Civic Center on State Road 70 East. It is recommended that people use the center’s entrance on State Road 710.

Finally, for vital local information, call 863-824-6888.

The Okeechobee News will post updates at okeechobeenews.net throughout the weekend, so long as power and internet access are available. Links can also be found on the Okeechobee News page on Facebook.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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