Polk County residents clean up after Irma

Water and debris mean residents in Lakeland have a big task ahead of them.

Polk County had some of the most widespread damage, because the eye of Hurricane Irma moved right through the area.

Monday morning in Lakeland, residents, power crews and city employees worked to clean up hundreds of trees that toppled in the storm. Most of them didn’t do major property damage, but some landed on houses and cars.

The downed trees did do major damage to the power grid. About 80 percent of people in Polk County woke up without power after the storm.

Lakeland Electric reported the worst hits to its grid in its 113-year history. They have crews working around the clock, so power restoration could take as little as a day for some people, and as much as two weeks for others.

Irma’s strong winds also wreaked havoc on the many mobile home parks in Polk County. The storm ripped the roof off many of them. Some residents compared it to Hurricane Charley in 2004.

“When I first got here, I did sit down and cry for a few minutes,” said one woman, who lost her carport in the storm. “But I’m very blessed. A lot of people in my neighborhood have it a lot worse.”

In other areas of Lakeland, downed trees and high winds weren’t the main concern. Meadowbrook Mobile Home Park off New Tampa Highway flooded.

“I was ready for it,” Mary Roosa said.

Residents in the flood-prone area expected it, but had never seen the water get as high as it did this time. It was several feet deep in some areas, and people were paddling boats through the park.

Food was scarce and most businesses were closed in Polk County. For people who wanted a hot meal, Taco Bell on South Florida Avenue in Lakeland was one of their only options. The line stretched out the door and it took hours to get fast food.

“I stepped inside for probably like two seconds and I was like, 'This is crazy man. I just want a taco,’” said one man, who ended up leaving without ordering.

Other stores, such as Publix, plan to open tomorrow, so the wait for food will soon be over.

While it could take days, weeks or even months to clean up entirely, a lot of people tell 10News they're glad Irma didn't do even more damage.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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