How City Utilities are Preparing for Hurricane Season

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The year may already be half over, but another hurricane season is just beginning. Residents were updated on utilities improvement projects during a May 23 community meeting at Winter Park Library that included tips on preparedness, and a rundown of city information resources.

Last year’s storms were considered a once in a lifetime event with Winter Park receiving more than 18 inches of rain. The odds may not favor a replay anytime soon, but the need for improvements is not being overlooked.

According to Assistant City Manager Michelle del Valle, the city is expecting to receive storm management and mitigation funding from three sources:

  • A grant of $3 million from the National Conservation Resource Service
  • A $500,000 appropriation from the state budget
  • An application submitted to the county for $3 million in hazard mitigation funding from FEMA

“Ian was a significant stress test,” said Water & Wastewater Utility Director David Zusi. “We know the areas that can handle the least amount of rainfall and we can do our best to mitigate, build the elevation of lift stations, and add connections for bypass pumps.”

Wastewater drainage improvements include the installation of new lift station pumps, and the purchase of additional portable generators to power lift stations during electrical outages. A sewer pipe reinforcement project is also in progress along Palmer Avenue.

Public Works & Transportation Assistant Director Dan Marcotte said his department is finalizing a water level lowering policy with the city’s Natural Resources Department. The plan will keep a seven-day outlook leading up to a possible hurricane, and will help manage lakes and land-locked bodies of water that the city can control.

“The Chain (of Lakes) is fixed level, they can’t be drained,” he said, adding that his department oversees the staging of bypass pumps in areas where flooding is likely. Public Works will also keep the same sandbag distribution plan in Ward Park with the usual limit of eight bags per resident.

Dredging contractors are in the final stages of the canal cleanup that began in late April, and will focus on clearing stormwater outfalls where debris has blocked drainage pipes. Dredging will also begin in the runoff ditches by the Winter Park Pines Golf Club.

The Public Works and Water & Wastewater Utilities are also partnering on stormwater drainage assessments that will aid in upgrading the city’s brick-paved streets.

The most anticipated update came from Electric Utility Director Dan D’Alessandro, who explained the delays in the undergrounding project that is meant to decrease the number of storm-related power outages.

“We were averaging six-to-eight miles of undergrounding each year for six years, so far we’ve logged 1.79 miles this fiscal year,” he said. “Most, if not all of that is due to supply issues or resource issues.”

According to D’Alessandro, the average price of a transformer increased from $9,000 in 2019, to a current cost of $29,000 that includes an 18-month backorder. However, the city is holding several transformers in storage for emergency use.

Cost and supply issues are currently pushing the project completion out to 2030.

Residents are encouraged to create household strategies for dealing with whatever Mother Nature has in store. A list of procedures, and city and county contacts are available in the City of Winter Park’s hurricane preparedness guide.

The list of official city information resources is as follows:

Other resources include:

  • Non-emergency information line 407-599-3494 (live during Emergency Operation Center activation)
  • Report electric utility power outages to 1-877-811-8700
  • Report water & wastewater utilities outages to 407-599-3219
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