Highlands County prepping for high winds from Hurricane Matthew

Crews at the Highlands County Emergency Operations Center.

SEBRING, Fla. (WFLA) — Highlands County residents are not taking any chances. The county is expecting powerful winds from Hurricane Matthew.

Residents learned their lesson when storms passed through a decade ago. They were on high alert Thursday.

When hurricanes passed through the area in 2004, homes were destroyed, businesses were damaged, and power was out for days. Highlands County residents learned their lesson.


All throughout the area Thursday, businesses boarded up and people filled up sandbags.

The crew at Cobra Transmission in downtown Sebring spent four hours installing metal shutters on the windows. Employees consider it time well spent.

“You never want to take any kind of hurricane lightly. It’s unpredictable,” Tony King, with Cobra Transmission, said.

Chuck Domm was loading up a sandbag.

“Winds that are probably above 60 mile an hour might take my roof to Polk County so I want to try and keep it in Highlands County,” Domm said.

This area is already saturated after a wet summer. Hurricane Matthew’s strong winds could pull up trees and cause major damage. “Take this seriously; take it seriously,” Highlands County Community Safety Director Scott Canaday said.

Emergency officials will be monitoring the storm all night. They urge residents to be cautious.

“The problem is gonna be the winds. Once we get to 45 mile an hour, we won’t be sending ambulances out; we won’t be sending fire trucks out. It’s just unsafe for us to get out there in harm’s way,” Canaday said.

And if communications go down, there’s a backup plan. Inside the EOC, there are ham radio operators. They handle communications between the EOC and the emergency shelter. They’re also ready to offer help if cell phone towers go down.

“(When Hurricane) Charley came through, we lost cell phones. So a shelter manager couldn’t call the EOC; they had to turn to us,” ham radio operator Randy Payne said. “When all else fails, we’re there.”

Two shelters are open, and schools and government offices will be closed on Friday.

See the latest track for Hurricane Matthew.

Weather Resources/Maps To Track Matthew:


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