Local News

Lake Istokpoga homes still under water

LAKE PLACID - October marked the return to the dry season, but not for Highlands Park Estates, where six to eight families remain flooded out of their homes. "The water is out of the houses," Helen Obenchain, president of the Highlands Park Estates neighborhood association, said Wednesday. "You can see the driveways. But their yards are still flooded, so they can't live there because they can't use the septic system." Administrator June Fisher said Highlands County is still working in the Lake Istokpoga neighborhood, trying to cure future flooding problems. While most of the subdivision remained high and dry, when the water table rose due to runoff from the Lake Wales Ridge, the floors submerged of a few houses that were built in low-lying areas.
"We're waiting on evaporation to fix what's left," said Monte Delaney, who pumped millions of gallons of water into his pond, saving other homeowners. He is hoping to meet with county commissioners again. Some of the flooded homeowners have moved, some are staying temporarily with families, the Red Cross temporarily put up some in hotels. "I haven't finished checking yet," Obenchain said. Because electricity is off at those homes, she's having trouble contacting them. "We're still trying to find out if some of them had flood insurance," Obenchain said. Southwest Florida Water Management District is gathering information about flood-prone areas in the Carter Creek watershed, which includes northern Sebring, southern Avon Park, west into Sun N' Lake, and east past Sebring into the Highlands Ridge neighborhood. Most of the currently available floodplain information is 10 to 30 years old and is outdated because of natural and physical changes caused by land use, development and erosion, said SWFWMD spokeswoman Susanna Martinez Tarokh. Carter Creek watershed residents are invited to attend an open house between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19 at Bert J. Harris Jr. Agricultural Center, 4509 George Blvd., Sebring. District representatives will present preliminary floodplain information, explain the findings, and gather additional information to identify flood-prone areas. After addressing public comments, floodplain information will be finalized and presented to the district's governing board. Carter Creek watershed floodplain information is not incorporated in the recently issued Federal Emergency Management Agency Preliminary Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps, Tarokh said. However, it may be used in future updates. Highlands County will use floodplain information for land use and zoning decisions, to manage development and wetlands, to reduce flood risks, to preserve land and water resources, and for emergency planning. It will also help the public decide whether and how to purchase and protect property. To find out which watershed you live in, visit WaterMatters.org/FloodRisk. More info: (352) 796-7211, ext. 4297. gpinnell@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5828