Polk residents, EOC preparing for possible impact of Hurricane Matthew

Customers at a Walmart in Lake Wales had purchased most of the store's bottled water by Wednesday morning.
Customers at a Walmart in Lake Wales stock up ahead of Hurricane Matthew.
Customers at a Walmart in Lake Wales stock up ahead of Hurricane Matthew.

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) –  Polk County Emergency Management staff are closely watching Hurricane Matthew and the reality that a slight shift could have an impact on Polk County.

As of Wednesday morning, the EOC was at minimal activation.

Polk County Emergency Management Director Pete McNally said they are going through their regular planning process.

“In this kind of storm when you’re on the edge, when it can really go either way, we need to make sure we don’t go overboard and get people overboard and get people over prepared for it. We still want to make sure people still know the impacts are possible,” said McNally.

SEE the latest track for Hurricane Matthew

On Wednesday morning,  staff held a National Weather Service meeting and then began verifying local shelter plans and developed a call down list that they will put out to the public. EOC staff also went over the local emergency plans and possible transportation needs. Further plans will depend on weather briefings throughout the day.

The Polk County School District has forewarned parents of the possibility schools may have early dismissal or close Thursday and/or Friday due to Hurricane Matthew. “We expect to make an announcement by early this afternoon regarding any possible school closures or early dismissal,” the district posted on Twitter Wednesday morning. Polk County Public Schools will have a regularly scheduled early dismissal on Wednesday, Oct. 5th because of teacher staff development.

Residents in some Polk County communities are preparing for Hurricane Matthew. Customers at a Walmart in Lake Wales had purchased most of the store’s bottled water by Wednesday morning, leaving some shelves empty.

On Wednesday night people from Lakeland to Davenport stocked up ahead of the storm. News Channel 8 found long lines at gas stations and supermarkets.

Bread and bottled water seemed to go the fastest.

People said they didn’t want to be caught off guard.

Torey Morton just wanted to fill up her car. “What’s the rush?” she asked. “To get gas. We gotta’ have gas to get around.”

Some drivers were forced to follow fuel truck drivers around. “As soon as I came in, by the time I got hooked up and everything, by the second compartment, they were completely packed,” said Tim Rogers, while making a delivery at a RaceTrac station in Haines City that had been out of fuel for nearly two hours.

At the Walmart just down US 27, News Channel 8 found more lines. People patiently waited in one line near the back of the store just to get their hands on bottled water.

“We had to take turns and turns,” Jose Echeverry, of Davenport, said.

The shelves were bare. Bread was all gone. “People in there trying to buy up the store, get as much as they can before the storm hits,” Teri Weaver, of Winter Haven, said.

Other shoppers talked about what they’d do if they lost their electricity. “Candles just in case the power goes out in our rent house,” said Jim Norris, who was visiting from Chicago.

News Channel 8 did find a few shoppers not buying things at a frantic pace. “Yeah, we’re not worried,” Nancy Wahl, of Winter Haven, said. “Because we have what we need, we think.”

8 On Your Side also found people battening down the hatches and making sure things in their yard, including campers, are tied down.

“That’s nothing to play with,” Michael Shelton said. “You have to kind of anchor things do in this park.”

“Never know what’s going to happen, but with the faith of the Lord, we’re going to be alright,” Torey Morton said.

Find the latest updates on Polk County here.


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