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Palm Coast Friday, Sep. 15, 2017 1 year ago

Irma destroyed two Palm Coast homes, but most escaped unscathed

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The city estimates a total of about $26 million in damage from the storm.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Hurricane Irma destroyed two homes in Palm Coast's F-Section — knocking a tree onto one and a live powerline that started a fire onto the second — but most homes made it through without damage. 

The storm dropped about 12 inches of rain on the city, flooding one home on Emerson Drive and flooding garages in others.

Altogether, two homes were destroyed, seven had major damage that makes them uninhabitable without major repairs, 129 had minor damage such as smashed out windows that makes them uninhabitable without minor repairs, and 980 were considered "affected" — with damage, such as missing shingles, that does not affect the homes' habitability.

The city is estimating it's sustained about $26 million worth of damage from the storm.

"We're fortunate — very, very fortunate. But it's still a major event for us," City Manager Jim Landon said in an emergency meeting of the City Council on Friday, Sept. 15.

The city quickly cleared downed trees out of streets and managed wastewater pumps to avoid flooding in residential areas, and got streetlights back online with generators.

"I am so fortunate and appreciative as to what an awesome response we had," Landon said. "When we set priorities of getting something done, it’s all hands on deck and they get it done."

This storm dropped about 12 inches of rain on the city. That's much more than the four or five inches dropped by Hurricane Matthew in October of last year. Plus, this time, the storm came after a nor'easter that dropped around 20 inches of rain, and after several months of double-digit rainfall.

Streets in several sections flooded. 

"We need to continue to improve our stormwater systems so that we can avoid that," Landon said.

The city is also asking residents to report any cases of water intrusion in garages to the city: Call the city's Customer Service line at 386-986-2360. The information will help the city plan its stormwater drainage projects.

The city's call center has been open 24 hours a day and handled more than 5,000 calls as of Thursday, Sept. 14.

POWER

As of the morning of Friday, Sept. 15, 15,240 of FPL's 58,000 Flagler County customers were still without power, while 42,760 had had their power restored. 

Some residents have been calling the city to try to get their power restored, but that's the wrong approach.

"The problem is that our residents think sometimes that we have control over the power, and we do not," Mayor Milissa Holland said.  

FPL maintains a webpage called the FPL Power Tracker, where residents can put in their account information or the phone number linked to their account, plus a zip code, for information on their power restoration status. (Go to fplmaps.com and click "Check outage status.")

The city has gotten some reports that residents have checked fplmaps.com and gotten a message that their power was restored, Holland said, only to return home to find that it was still out.

FPL said it had tech problems because the page was overloaded, but expects to have all Palm Coast residents' power restored by Sunday night, Sept. 17.

Downed lines have complicated power restoration efforts.

"Even if they can energize some homes, they won’t if they have a downed line in the area," Landon said.

Still, FPL is doing what it can with record-level crews.

"The idea that this section was being marked as last, or this section 'They don’t care about us,' —  That is absolute foolishness," said City Councilman Steve Nobile.

DEBRIS DISPOSAL

Palm Coast is preparing to dispose of the massive levels of debris left by the storm. Waste haulers are hard to come by at the moment, but the process will begin this weekend, Landon said. 

"Once again, there are a lot of piles in Florida right now, and a lot of them are a lot bigger than ours," he said. "We have worked out something with Waste Pro; they will start Saturday."

The process will likely continue seven days a week, Landon said. The city will be picking up residential debris, but not commercial debris: Business owners will have to arrange for debris pickup themselves.

Debris set out at the curb should be separated into three piles: vegetative debris like logs and branches; construction and demolition debris like roofing shingles and drywall; and normal household trash.

The city has asked residents to make sure they're not placing debris on top of their water meter box, sewer cleanout cap or PEP tank lid, since city staff may need to access those as the recovery effort continues.

Regular household garbage and and yard trash pickup/bagged storm trash debris pickup will continue on the regular trash pickup schedule. 

WATER

The city's water system never lost pressure during the storm, and the city never issued a boil water order.

A total of 13 pump stations are without power, but are running on generators. Some wells are inaccessible due to a washout on Hargrove Grade.

Some areas with PEP tanks, mainly in the R-Section and the E-Section, remain without power, and the city has had roving pumping trucks out to pump them down.

The city's wastewater plant has been handling over 11 million gallons a day, according to city staff.

Staff lowered the gates at stormwater structures before the storm to create additional capacity

"That additional storage probably saved some of our homes and businesses from flooding," Palm Coast Utility Development Manager Stephen Flanagan said.

All city streets are now safe for travel, and all parks and trails are open, city staff said at the meeting.

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