Highlands County power concerns grow as elderly, special needs residents go without

More than 80 percent of county without power
Posted at 5:45 PM, Sep 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-14 17:45:51-04

Most of Highlands County is in the dark and in the sweltering heat as of Thursday evening. More than 70 percent of the county is without power, according to Highlands County officials.

According to Duke Energy, power crews are restored power to 14,509 consumers in Highlands County.

The biggest need right now, aside from power and fuel, is ice, according to Sheriff Paul Blackman. More than 200 people are still in Highlands County Emergency Shelters, according to county officials.

People still are waiting more than an hour in line at local gas stations.

"It's getting quite bad all over," said one woman, who had been waiting in her car, with the air conditioning turned off. "There's no gas."

Blackman said most gas stations have fuel but do not have power to run the pumps.

"Gas is a big problem," said another mother of a toddler. "I did two lines yesterday. One was over three hours!"

As a result, the Highlands County Sheriff's Office reached out to private companies, leasing generators to help gas stations back online and distributing product.

"Just trying to get them some resources so they can get some power, they can get some fans blowing in their house and maybe even run a refrigerator to keep some stuff cool," Blackman said.

Blackman said many of their residents are elderly or have disabilities and/or serious medical concerns, so having access to power is critical.

ABC Action News was in a Sebring area mobile home park Wednesday, as an 82-year-old man got in his car to wait for a generator. He had been without ice or power for days.

Other residents agree, saying many in the Highlands community are especially vulnerable.

"There's a lot of people with special needs, oxygen and things like that and they can't handle the heat," one longtime resident told ABC Action News.

Individuals in highlands County are now eligible for FEMA assistance please apply at

The Board of County Commissioners extended the emergency declaration for another week, they also waived landfill tipping fees for yard debris until Tuesday, September 19, 2017.

There is a curfew from 8:30 p.m. until 7:00 a.m., according to county leaders. There is a precautionary boil water notice for the City of Sebring and the Town of Lake Placid.