Category Archives: weather

Duke Energy slammed by otherwise thankful DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia

DeBary Diner got a shout out for providing free meals to city workers during Hurricane Irma.  Walmart and Winn-Dixie were praised.

Walgreens got attaboys for filling prescriptions during the emergency. Gas stations received thanks for calling DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia about fuel shipments.

But Duke Energy got a failing grade from Garcia.

“I have issues with Duke Energy and how they went about it, ” Garcia said during Wednesday’s council meeting. “Yes, they need a lot of fixing. Yes, they need to turn around and hire more people.”

Florida Power & Light responded within 48 hours and had 98 percent of customers’ power restored after Hurricane Irma, Garcia said.

“Duke Energy took almost nine to 10 days before they turned around and addressed the issue of power in the city of DeBary,” Garcia said.

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DeBary Hurricane Irma debris cleanup at halfway point

Roughly half of the debris from Hurricane Irma has been picked up since the storm hit Florida, DeBary City Council members learned Wednesday.

City contractors have cleared about 30,000 cubic yards of debris — about twice as much as originally expected for the entire job,  Alan Williamson, the city’s director of public works, told city council members.

The debris pickup is expected to continue for another two weeks.

Williamson said the cleanup will cost more than originally expected, though how much more wasn’t immediately clear.

Two weeks ago, the City Council approved a rapid-pickup plan for $540,000, hiring two contractors – Waste Pro and DRC – to pick up from public roads,  as well as from private roads in gated subdivisions.

That plan was approved when the city estimated it had about 15,000 cubic yards to pick up.

The council praised Williamson and other staffers for their hard work before, during and after the storm.

Williamson said the city provided more than 8,000 sandbags to residents before the storm.

Nearly 30 large trees fell and were removed by staffers during Irma, Williamson noted.

He said nearly 12 inches of rain fell during Irma and no homes flooded.

Homes in the River City flooded in 2004 and 2008.

Since then, the city installed $30 million worth of stormwater upgrades.

“Zero flooding, Mr. McLemore,” an appreciative Mayor Bob Garcia told interim City Manager Ron McLemore. “Zero flooding. The system worked.”

Tropical Storm Fay in 2008 dumped close to 24 inches of rain in 24 hours on parts of West Volusia in 2008, overflowing lakes, putting streets underwater and flooding 130 homes in DeBary.

City staffers pledged to try for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for costs associated with Hurricane Irma debris removal.

FEMA already owes DeBary nearly $400,000 for Hurricane Matthew, which hit Central Florida a year ago.

In other actions Wednesday:

The DeBary City Council gave initial approval to a zoning change for an assisted-living facility.

The 40-foot, three-story Canterwood Manor Assisted Living Facility is planned on nearly 8 acres northeast of U.S. Highway 17-92 and Dirksen Drive.

The 120-bed facility will replace two existing single-family rental homes on property owned by Charles and Saundra Grey of DeBary.

Council members also gave second approval to a 289-unit apartment complex planned on the other side of Dirksen Drive.

Construction on Hawthorne Landing could begin in spring 2018 with completion set for summer 2019.

Hawthorne Landing (also called Integra 289 Exchange) is planned on 16 acres southeast of U.S. Highway 17-92 and Dirksen Drive on land commonly known as the Costa property.

DeBary OK’s $540K for rapid Hurricane Irma cleanup

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that a $400,000 debris cleanup option would exclude certain roads.

DeBary’s cleanup from Hurricane Irma will get underway today after City Council members approved a rapid-pickup plan for $540,000.

The plan, approved by a unanimous vote, authorizes two contractors –Waste Pro and DRC –to pick up from public roads,  as well as from private roads in gated subdivisions.

“First and foremost,  our job is to secure the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens. That’s our job,” said Vice Mayor Lita Handy- Peters.

Interim City Manager Ron McLemore offered two options for City Council members.

City Council member Stephen Bacon voiced support for a less expensive plan estimated to cost $400,000. But that would take longer to complete.

Handy- Peters said the more expensive option was a “no brainer” because it would remove the potential public safety threat of brush piles faster and more comprehensively.

“You get it done and you get it done quickly and then you figure out how to make it work,” she said.

City staffers pledged to try for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But since FEMA already owes DeBary nearly $400,000 for Hurricane Matthew, there isn’t much hope that DeBary will get back its costs for that storm.

Still, McLemore said they would try.

Check out the city’s storm-debris guidelines here.

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Hurricane Irma cleanup inspired by Charles Richard Beall

You don’t need to bring gloves or any equipment.

Just show up at 8 a.m. Saturday in the Winn-Dixie parking lot, preferably wearing patriotic-themed clothing,  and prepare for hard work in honor of a local hero.

Hurricane Irma downed trees at a property occupied by the mother of Vietnam War hero Charles Richard Beall. U.S. Highway 17-92 is named in his honor.

Now his mom, 88-year-old Arbutus Beall, and her family need help, according to community activist Bret Douglas, a volunteer who runs the DeBary Legacy page on Facebook.

The DeBary businessman is asking for volunteers to help clear downed trees from her property on Monroe Avenue.

Douglas, a Gulf War-area veteran and horticulturalist, wants the cleanup to be a celebration of  Charles Richard Beall’s life.

Beall was 20 when he was fatally wounded on March 6, 1968 while storming enemy bunkers during the Viet Cong Tet Offensive.

He attacked as snipers shot at an army convoy.

As his platoon tried to rescue the convoy, Beall “rushed the bunkers, one by one, firing into them. Three bunkers were destroyed. He was killed attacking the fourth,” the Orlando Sentinel said in 1996.

That was the year U.S. 17-92 in DeBary was renamed in his honor.

A Beall relative recently reached out to Douglas for help after Irma stormed across Florida.

“I think this is worse than Matthew,” he said, referring to a powerful hurricane in October 2016. Then, as now, the burly man muscled into action.

Douglas, who owns a DeBary landscaping firm called Ironclad Landscape Management, has been highlighted on social media for working hard to help those who need it the most.

The 50-year-old volunteers in DeBary by removing trees, trimming limbs and fixing fences. He said he focuses on helping the elderly, disabled and low-income residents.

Douglas is also building a local ministry with a food bank for the needy.

He says he gets about five to six calls per week from people who need help.

“We answer them all,” Douglas said.

Anyone who wants to help Douglas clean up Arbutus Beall’s property should show up at 8 a.m. in the parking lot of Winn-Dixie at 2 N. Charles R. Beall Blvd.

Douglas will lead volunteers in a prayer and provide directions to the Beall home. He’ll also provide drinks and food. And gloves.

“Just show up,” he added.

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DeBary mayor: ‘Keep your fingers crossed!’

Mayor Bob Garcia this morning expressed optimism about electricity restoration for still-powerless neighborhoods in DeBary.

Electricity has slowly been returning to DeBary homes and businesses after Hurricane Irma downed power lines and caused other problems with distribution networks Sunday.

“I believe that based on what I see the [equipment] and supplies are coming into DeBary,” Garica said online Saturday. “Keep your fingers crossed!”

The message was posted on Facebook’s DeBary Proud! page by DeBary resident Diane M Van Auken on behalf of Garcia, who is “not on social media,” the post said.

“The power company is working hard to get All the power restored in DeBary,” said Garcia. His update also said:

  • Traders Cove has power
  • Highland Marina has partial power restored and is waiting for transformers and tree removal
  • Linemen in Terra Alta are also waiting for tree removal and transformers

“The Vistas area (where Mayor Garcia & his family live) were hit hard and are still without power,” he wrote. “There are many problems there that are being worked on before the power can be restored.”

He said it is possible homes in the Valencia Circle area may get power by tonight or no later than Sunday.

Duke Energy says it has 81,055 Volusia customers. Of those, 65,438 had power restored and 6,126 remained without electricity as of 4 p.m. Saturday. Power restoration was estimated by midnight Sunday.

Florida Power and Light said 20,670 of its 176,800 customers in Volusia County are without power as of Saturday.

According to Florida’s Department of Emergency Management:

Duke Energy had more than 1.3 million customers affected by Irma. Power has already been restored to more than 1.1 million customers.

  • Duke Energy expects power restoration to be completed for western service areas the night of Friday, Sept. 15.
  • Duke Energy expects power restoration to be completed for central and northern service areas the night of Sunday, Sept. 17.

Florida Power and Light had 4.4 million customers affected by the storm. Power has already been restored to more than 3.4 million customers.

  • FPL expects power restoration to be completed for the East Coast the night of Sunday, Sept. 17.
  • FPL expects power restoration to be completed for the West Coast by Friday, Sept. 22.

This isn’t the first time Garcia was featured on social media because of the storm.

On Saturday, as the storm approached, a Facebook user posted video of Garcia urging residents to volunteer for cleanup and repairs after Irma passed.

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‘This is the time to hunker down,’ Volusia manager says



Volusia County officials tonight urged residents to stay indoors as Hurricane Irma hammers Florida. A countywide curfew begins at 9 p.m. today and lasts until noon Monday.

“This is the time to hunker down,” said Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen.

About 4,000 people are currently in emergency shelters in Volusia County. He said the most damaging winds are expected between 11 p.m. today through 10 a.m. Monday.  Gusts of 75 miles per hour are possible.

“We strongly advise that everyone stay inside and not go out in the storm,” Dinneen said. “The ground is saturated from the rain and power lines may be down.”

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said officers will use “discretion and common sense” while enforcing the curfew.

“Those who are evacuating, unavoidably traveling for work or who have an urgent need to travel in the area are free to do so if absolutely necessary.” a county news release said. “The intent of the curfew is to keep people safe, discourage loitering and prevent looting – which won’t be tolerated.”

Other updates from the county:

  • All bridges in Volusia County to the beachside are closed.
  • The north causeway in New Smyrna Beach and the Main Street Bridge in Daytona Beach have westbound lanes open for those who are leaving beachside.
  • Turnbull Bay Bridge in New Smyrna Beach and Highbridge in Ormond Beach are closed.

The number for the Citizens Information Center is 866-345-0345.

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Hurricane Irma: DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia asks for help


As Hurricane Irma neared, DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia this morning urged residents to quickly complete storm preparations and volunteer if possible to help the community.

Garcia made his comments at about 9 a.m. from the parking lot of Genuine Bistro & Lounge at the crossroads of DeBary’s busiest roadways: U.S. Highway 17-92 and Highbanks Road.

He said residents should complete preparations by 5 p.m. today or, if they’re planning to evacuate, they should leave immediately.

His comments were captured by a Facebook user and posted online.

Garcia was flanked by City Commissioner Erika Benfield and workers can be seen in the background completing storm preparations.

Volusia County is facing an increased threat for tornadoes based on the latest track, according to county emergency managers.

They are expecting 8 to 12 inches of rain with some areas
receiving 15 inches.

After the storm passes and conditions are safe, residents should check on their neighbors to make sure they are safe. Garcia urged residents to clean up, but not to put debris near roadways, fire hydrants and utility poles.

He encouraged residents to join him sometime Monday after the storm passes to volunteer with cleanup efforts.

He said he expects to stage at noon Monday near the intersection to coordinate volunteers.

“I need your help,” Garcia said.  “This is not going to be sponsored by the city. This is us coming together as a community.”

Garcia made his comments shortly before a briefing by Volusia County emergency managers and Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

Chitwood said Volusia County will be under a curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to 9 a.m. Monday.

Volusia County’s Citizens Information Center is answering questions from callers right now. The number is  866-345-0345.

“We do not want people in the water or at the beach today and in the coming days,” the county said in a news release this morning. “Beach officials are flying the double-red flag. After the
storm, please wait [for] an announcement that it is safe to visit the beach. There may be debris in the water and along the shore.”

The county said Florida Power & Light is expected widespread
destruction throughout its service area. More than 16,000 workers from nearly 30 states are responding.
“FPL expects 3.4 million customers may lose power as a result of Irma, and could experience prolonged outages, based on the current forecast,” the county said.

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DeBary proudly assembling for Hurricane Irma


Got a skill? Want to help? DeBary residents are assembling a volunteer response team in case Hurricane Irma hits.

Tentative plans call for a meeting of potential volunteers Monday night with a location and other details to be released on DeBary Proud on Facebook.

“We are hoping to have people of all skills available for storm or other natural disaster events that can help along side first responders,” Jason Clisby wrote.

Volusia County offers up-to-date information about storm preparedness, including important checklists, online.

DeBary has been hit hard by flooding in the past, even by indirect storm strikes.  As a result, millions have been spent upgrading the River City’s storm-water systems.

Even with those upgrades, DeBary could suffer widespread flooding under a major storm, Public Works Director Alan Williamson told the City Council in June.

Tropical Storm Fay dumped close to 24 inches of rain in 24 hours on parts of West Volusia in 2008, overflowing lakes, putting streets underwater and flooding 130 homes in DeBary.

Clisby issued an invitation for storm response volunteers on Sunday morning.

“If you are interested in volunteering or just getting more info, comment in this post.,” he wrote. “We will update as we have more information. We will likely call for a bigger meeting one evening this week to get everyone on the same page.”

The National Hurricane Center said this about Irma on Sunday:

  • It’s too early to say with certainty where Irma might hit in the U.S. mainland, though projections show it aiming at Florida and sitting northeast of Cuba by Friday.
  • Hurricane Irma is a Category 3 with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph while moving west-southwest.
  • The storm will power up as it moves over warmer water over the next three to five days.

“After 5 days, the forecast becomes much more uncertain, with most models suggesting a sharp turn north while remaining offshore,” the National Hurricane Center said this morning. “However, direct impacts to Florida can’t be ruled out as forecasts a week out are historically unreliable.”

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Five killed in Florida by lightning this year

Florida’s reputation for killer lightning continues.

Five people have been killed by lightning this year, most recently a tourist in Brevard County. They are among 11 killed in the U.S. this year.

Nine people were killed by lightning in Florida last year, including a tourist in Volusia County.

Fifty-two people have been killed by lightning between 2007 and 2016, according to a Naples Daily News.

Florida far outpaces any other state when it comes to lightning-related deaths. Texas had 21 deaths, less than half of Florida’s deaths in the same time period, according to a USA Today Network-Florida analysis.

In Florida’s most recent case, Lamar Rayfield, 35, of Philadelphia died at a hospital after he was hit by lightning on Satellite Beach in Brevard County on July 28.

An infant delivered after his pregnant mother was struck by lightning in the Fort Myers area died July 12, roughly two weeks after the strike.

Meghan Davidson was struck by lightning June 29. Her baby, Owen, was delivered at Lee Memorial Hospital and later moved to Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Thirty-five-year old Jeremy Harper of Kentucky died after a lightning strike outside his tent July 10 at the Wilderness Landing Campground in Okaloosa County in the Florida Panhandle.

He was camping with eight other family members, including six children ranging in age from 15 months to 13 years old, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Guadalupe Salinas, 46, of  Fort Pierce died after he was struck by lightning at a Jensen Beach construction site on May 17.

A construction worker, Edwin Ramos Jarquin Armas, 33, died in June after he was struck on the grounds of Pines City Center in Pembroke Pines, the Miami Herald said.

The last lightning fatality in Volusia County happened last year.

Janika Gardner of Georgia died after she was hit by lightning on the beach in Daytona Beach Shores on June 24, 2016, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

During storms:

  • Avoid open areas. Don’t be the tallest object in the area.
  • Stay away from isolated tall trees, towers or utility
    poles.
  • Lightning tends to strike the taller objects in an
    area.
  • Stay away from metal conductors such as wires or
    fences.
  • Metal does not attract lightning, but lightning can
    travel long distances through it.

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DeBary’s crime drops but school safety concerns persist

Crime is down in DeBary, despite a rash of car burglaries, and the River City is prepared for natural disasters. But concern remains about safety at the city’s only public school: DeBary Elementary.

Those were among the highlights of City Council member Stephen Bacon’s town hall meeting last week about public safety.

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon

“The budget is unlimited when it comes to people’s lives and property,” Bacon said Tuesday (July 18). “Some of these kids in grammar school could be 6 feet tall at 10 years old.”

In recent weeks, Bacon has raised concerns about safety at DeBary Elementary. He referenced the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults.

“It was horrible,” Bacon said. “If there’s one incident, I mean, that is a good reason why we should have” a school resource officer.

Sherrif-Mike-Chitwood

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, one of the speakers at the town hall, agreed.

“If I had my way, I’d put a deputy in every school,” Chitwood said. “It’s just not physically feasible to do that.”

He noted that when he was police chief of Daytona Beach, he snagged a grant to pay for officers in all 10 schools in the city. But the grant runs out at the end of next year. It would cost $1.6 million to keep up the same level of staffing, said Chitwood, who took office as sheriff in January.

Bacon didn’t say how a school resource officer at DeBary Elementary school might be funded. The city already faces an increase this year in its public safety budget.

Public safety costs rise

Public safety costs for the city are projected to increase to $5.54 million, an increase of $444,393. That includes fire services, law-enforcement protection and a portion of the debt for the new $2 million fire station.

The amount proposed for fire services, $1,739,683, is a nearly 30 percent increase. The amount proposed for the Sheriff’s Office is $3.49 million, a 32 percent increase.

City staffers are proposing to use $816,000 from reserves to balance this year’s budget.

The contracts with Orange City for fire services and with the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services.

Chitwood: Crime is down

Chitwood said crime is down 20 percent during the first six months of this year compared to the first six months of 2016, though car burglaries have been “really big here.” The city’s proximity to Interstate 4 makes it a target for criminals looking for “crimes of opportunity,” Chitwood added.

“We’re on the I-4 corridor. They’re getting off and, as the councilman will tell you, they went into his subdivision and they went through that place like Sherman went through Atlanta,” Chitwood said. Bacon became a crime victim in April when a suspect got into his gated subdivison – River Oaks – and stole his convertible Corvette. 

It was recovered two hours later in Sanford.  Other communities in DeBary have been hit by car burglars seeking unlocked vehicles.

A man from Sanford is accused of car burglaries in Glen Abbey and DeBary Golf and Country Club. Chitwood says technology will help deputies fight crime.

DeBary’s proposed budget for next year includes a $70,000 request from Chitwood for two, fixed-location license-plate readers, as well as a third moveable reader.

The readers constantly scan license plates and they send alerts to deputies if the device detects anything flagged in national or state crime databases, like stolen plates, Chitwood said.

Official: Overprepare

Emergency managers, meanwhile, say DeBary and Volusia County are ready for disasters but residents need to be active participants and obey evacuation orders.

“The biggest thing you need to do is prepare your family,” said another speaker, Tom Cisco, operations coordinator for Volusia County Emergency Management. “Talk to your family about what hazards are going to affect you. And not just hurricanes. We always talk about hurricanes but there are a lot of hazards in this county that can affect you.”

DeBary Safety Coordinator Alan Williamson, also the city’s public works director, said “it’s better to overprepare than underprepare.”

“DeBary doesn’t necessarily need to evacuate. But depending on the storm, if you are in a manufactured home, you want may want to think about evacuating,” Williamson said.

The city is prepared for a range of disasters, he said.

“As far as the city, we have a comprehensive emergency management plan,” Williamson said. “We don’t plan just for hurricanes. We plan for all hazards. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Sinkholes. Wildfires.”