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Highlands County prepares for Hurricane Dorian's potential impacts

The area is under a tropical storm watch.
Posted: 12:06 AM, Sep 02, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-03 07:18:24-04
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HIGHLANDS COUNTY, Fla. — Officials and residents in Highlands County are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Dorian, as the area is under a tropical storm watch.

County officials are urging residents to finish their emergency plans and make sure they have supplies.

“I underestimated it,” said Amanda Dowd.

She and her family are taking steps now, filling up sandbags and placing them around their house.

“To keep water out of my house,” Michael Dowd said.

Families taking shelter in Highlands County

Highlands County officials said they’re cautiously optimistic, urging residents to not panic but prepare.

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“Let’s just hope for the best outcome but prepare for the worst,” said Gloria Rybinski, PIO for the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners.

Rybinski said they the emergency operations center fully activated on Monday.

“Best-case scenario is we’re still going to have pretty strong tropical storm force winds and a lot of rain so everybody needs to be prepared for that,” said Scott Dressel, PIO for the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office.

County officials said there is a voluntary evacuation for people in low lying areas or mobile homes.

"Our main concern right now is the flooding concern because we have had a really rainy season," said Latosha Reiss, Highlands County emergency manager.

Four shelters opened Monday, including a special needs shelter where dozens were expected. By Monday evening Rybinski said there were 130 people expected across all shelters.

"We have to be positive but also keep in mind anything can happen, so just to be safe," said Dulce Diaz. She brought her children there ahead of the storm.

There are also three sandbag locations available. So far county officials estimate they've distributed around 40,000

“I’m scared as ever, but right now, we’re getting the sand to put against the doors,” said Latoya Evans as she and her family filled up sandbags.

While the impact isn’t known yet, some families aren’t waiting before getting prepared.

People can receive updates from the EOC via text. Send “HCDORIAN” to 888777 or can call the EOC at 863-402-6800.

Sandbags are available at these locations:

Avon Park, intersection of CR 17, Isabelle Lake Road and Old Bombing Range Road

Sebring, S. George Blvd., just north of the EOC

Lake Placid, intersection of CR 621 and Highlands Lake Drive

Shelters will be at the following locations:

Avon Park

South Florida State College

University Center

600 W College Dr, Avon Park

Lake Placid

Lake Placid High School

202 Green Dragon Drive

Sebring

Alan Jay Convention Center

781 Magnolia, Avenue

There is also a special needs shelter:

Bert J. Harris Agri-Civic Center

4509 George Blvd., Sebring

Sex offenders in need of shelter can got to 434 Fernleaf Ave. Sebring.