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In Orlando area, ‘historic flooding’ and rainfall but few injuries or deaths reported

McClatchy Washington Bureau 10/6/2022 Nicholas Nehamas, McClatchy Washington Bureau
Although the Orlando area had its own problems, power company trucks rumbled south and west, to where the damage was far worse. © Nicholas Nehamas/Miami Herald/TNS Although the Orlando area had its own problems, power company trucks rumbled south and west, to where the damage was far worse.

As Hurricane Ian moved northeast across Florida Thursday, it brought historic levels of rain and flooding to the Orlando area, the heart of the state’s vital tourism industry.

But the storm did not appear to have caused the widespread, catastrophic damage seen along Florida’s Gulf Coast communities. No deaths had been reported in Orange or Osceola counties as of noon, although Orange County sheriff’s deputies said they had made about 15 rescues in flooded neighborhoods in the community of Orlo Vista, including two people in wheelchairs. In Volusia County, officials said one man died overnight after going outside during the storm to drain his pool.

Ian left this car — and many others in the Orlando area — nearly door handle deep in rainwater. © Nicholas Nehamas/Miami Herald/TNS Ian left this car — and many others in the Orlando area — nearly door handle deep in rainwater.

In downtown Orlando, some streets remained completely flooded early Thursday afternoon, with garbage and debris strewn about and traffic lights out. Lake Eola, a popular attraction, completely overflowed its banks as the storm moved through. A neighborhood dog park was also underwater.

“It’s crazy,” said Jake Morris, a downtown Orlando resident, who has lived in the area for several years. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Morris and Logan Ganier were walking outside surveying the damage early Thursday afternoon, along with groups of other curious locals, as a light rain fell.

In a statement, the city of Orlando said it was seeing “historic levels of flooding” with as much as 14 inches of rain. Fire and police crews were being called to rescue residents from flooded vehicles and homes, although no one had been injured, the city said. It told people they should stay inside while rescue and recovery work begins.

Beyond the city limits, there were reports of “extensive flooding throughout the county,” said David Diaz, a spokesman for Orange County Fire Rescue. Farther south, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said it had seen “major flooding” but “no major structural damages at this time.”

Orlando’s theme parks were closed. Walt Disney World said its crews were assessing the impact of the storm and clearing debris while “thousands of guests” remained at its hotels.

In 2021, the greater Orlando area received more than 59 million visitors, according to the local tourism bureau.

Some parts of Central Florida remain without power. As of noon, roughly 221,000 customers did not have power in Orange County, or about a third of the total, according to the Public Service Commission.

On Interstate 75 and the Florida Turnpike, convoys of dozens of utility trucks were seen driving south to areas hard hit by the storm. The trucks came from other states, including Pennsylvania, Missouri and Alabama — part of an effort to get the lights back on as quickly as possible.

©2022 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit mcclatchydc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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