Local News

Red Cross helps two more families

LAKE PLACID - There were a dozen gopher tortoise mounds behind where Nikki St. Pierre lives, near U.S. 27 and S.R 70. "I can't even see the holes now," St. Pierre said, "There's three or four feet of water where they were." "We've had standing water on Ekhoff Lane since late June," she said. "A good portion of our 10-acre property is under 2-4 feet of water in some places." Closer to Lake Istokpoga, the American Red Cross has provided financial assistance and temporary lodging to two more families who were affected by flooding from heavy rains, said Erin Pagán, director of communications for the American Red Cross Mid-Florida Region. The total is now up to four families.
"Our Disaster Action Team volunteers think that if the heavy rains continues there could be an additional 10 homes affected with families or individuals who may need our assistance," Pagan said. Parts of Highlands County have averaged 40 inches of rain since June 1, said Road and Bridge Superintendent Kyle Green. "We've seen storm events where we didn't get this much rain." "We're not seeing any major issues with roads or bridges," Green said. Water has poured over roads during heavy downpours, but so far that hasn't destroyed the blacktop. "What we have seen is a lot of older culverts there were deteriorating." Roads are still closed around Bluebird Lake in Leisure Lakes, Green said. "We're ordering the replacements. Those were three 72-inch culverts. They've been in there for a long time. We'll get them in when the rain gives us a break." If the rain doesn't worsen, the county will likely replace a dozen culverts, Green said. And if it does get worse? With groundwater levels this close to the surface, one hurricane or tropical storm could cause major flooding, Green guessed. "We're hearing from residents that they didn't know Red Cross helped people affected by flooding," Pagan said. "Also, people express to us they didn't know Red Cross assistance is free." To contact the Highlands County chapter of the American Red Cross, call 386-4440 and follow the prompts. More info: www.redcross.org/mid-florida. Before leaving home prior to a disaster, don't forget to take a flashlight, medications and an extra set of car and other keys. For a flooding or disaster checklist: www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4340128_Flood.pdf Before entering your home, look outside for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks or other damage. Watch for snakes and other wild animals. Smell for natural gas and listen for hissing. For a checklist before returning home: www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m14240163_ReturningHomeChecklist.pdf For a library of disaster checklists: www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster-safety-library. Find Red Cross flooding checklists in 10 languages at www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster-safety-library gpinnell@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5828