Stormy Weather Ahead

Will the Lights Stay On?

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Stormy Weather Ahead

Peter K. Gottfried, Guest Columnist

Tropical Storm Maria has now become Hurricane Maria and is battering residents of the Caribbean — even as they are still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. Too soon to tell if Maria will turn toward Central Florida, but one thing remains certain – the City of Winter Park is still not ready for a major hurricane.

This rotten utility pole at Stovin and Park Avenue fell during Hurricane Irma.

Storm Water Has No Where to Go . . .

Flooding occurs in the same areas of the City it always has – and thanks to continuing development without proper storm water management, it is getting worse. The City knowns about these areas, but continues to take a go-slow approach to addressing them.

. . . Except Into the Roads

Lake Mendsen within Martin Luther King Park – site of the proposed $30 million library-event center — is woefully inadequate to handle existing storm water drainage from the Winter Park Village, the Paseo Apartments and the CNL Heritage Center. Even a heavy afternoon thunder storm will cause flooding on Denning Drive and Harper Street. The construction of the new library, with its associated impervious surfaces, can only make things worse. Other areas of the City that routinely flood include the intersection of Kings Way and Fawsett Road and stretches of Palmer Avenue, where water rises to the curb top after an afternoon downpour.

High Rates Alone Won’t Keep the Lights On

Reliable electric power during major storms is a significant issue. Like many other customers in Winter Park, I was without power for a week following Hurricane Irma.

Let’s Bring Our Infrastructure Into the 21st Century

Winter Park purchased the electric utility from Progress Energy/Florida Power in 2005 with a promise to underground all lines within 10 years. According to the City website, that target completion date has moved out to 2026. Progress is measured in terms of how many miles of line have been undergrounded rather than the number of additional customers served. The current debate is less about how and when to underground and more about how to pay for it. For information about undergrounding in your area, go to

Editor’s Note: The City of Winter Park issued a statement that said undergrounding timeline was 20 years.

Winter Park can do better. There is no reason we should scramble every time there is a major storm. Let’s bring our infrastructure up to date so we can have some peace of mind when the next storm hits.

Peter K. Gottfried is President of Natural Systems Analysts, Inc. which provides technical and scientific support to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Land Management. He served as a City Commissioner and on the Planning and Zoning Board, Lakes and Waterways Board and, currently, on the board of Mead Botanical Garden.

  • author's avatar

    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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10 replies
  1. Brent says:

    1. You live at sea level. There is no where for the water to go.
    2. Under grounding all power lines will help with reliability, but if you want it now, cut down all the trees.

    It’s called life in Florida. You can’t stop it. You just need to be prepared as individuals to deal with it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Great article, Peter. Inadequate planning & preparing for long

      term solutions always gets us in trouble. Orlando & WP

      weren’t at sea level last time I checked. It would probably

      make sense to require more permeable land in our building

      codes to allow for better drainage. Does anyone remember

      the Rule of the 5 P’s?

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you Winter Park Voice and Mr. Gottfried, for a valuable analysis of what went wrong before and after Hurricane Irma.

      My electrical line is underground; we did not lose power.

      However neighbors’and friends’ lines are not underground. When asked by a neighbor who moved to WP from Orlando several years ago about the likelihood that they would lose power, I told them, “Sixty percent of WP’s electrical lines are underground. I am sure all the main lines and important feeders are underground, but even if you lose electricity, WP has an efficient response system, and you should be back online in a day. I’m sure they are ready for a Cat-4 hurricane so anything less will be a breeze for them.”

      I was stunned when my neighbors along with sixty percent of WP’s residents were without power for days, with no evidence of a response by the city.

      Trees have been more than well managed; only a few mature trees are left on the city right-of-way. There were many small branches on the ground, but only a couple of downed trees; so we could not understand why the outage was so widespread in our neighborhood, including among residents with underground electrical lines, and why the repairs were so delayed.

      As individuals, we were more than prepared, and we’ve all been through repeated hurricanes. We helped each other out, charging cellphones, making ice, offering freezer space, but many had to move into hotels or to the homes of family and friends.

      The extent of the outage, the lack of response, the failure of sewage lift stations, and contamination of our waterways and lakes, and the initial (first four days) lack of substantive communication from the city was a blindside, even for those who try to stay well-informed. What happened was unexpectedly awful on multiple levels. The consensus is that we need much more information and public dialogue about WP’s basic infrastructure.

      WPV is our go-to for the best information and analyses about Winter Park. Mr. Gottfried’s analysis is being shared widely. Thank you again, for this, this website, and your FB page.

    • Pamela Peters says:

      I disagree that we need to reconcile ourselves to simply “deal with it”. Technical and engineering advances are abundant and we can seek better solutions.

  2. John Skolfield says:

    Personally, I think we ignore reality at our own peril.

    For years I’ve witnessed water intrusion issues on homes that should’ve embraced two more truckloads of fill to raise it three or 4 inches. That was a builder, with a spreadsheet, that was trying to carve out that little line item. Furthermore I’ve witnessed code required retention on new construction that was half of the requirement. Up zoning to allow her greater coverage is damaging as well.

    Many of our customers are frustrated at the 50% impervious surface limitation. That is, until, the ambulance can’t get to their home because of flooding. Then that damn government regulation might save their babies life.


  3. Dismayed says:

    I remain grateful to our city staff and policy makers. All hands were on deck. Timely notices, emergency telephone lines manned by department heads, firefighters quick response cutting up downed trees blocking roads, police patrolling neighborhoods. Many helping us, leaving their own families. What the storms did was expose areas that need attention. There is no perfect, but Winter Park’s response to Hurricane Irma was pretty close. Looking for our policy makers to give our staff the tools they need to keep our families safe. They, too, have difficult choices and money is limited. Thanking staff for their hard work. In this difficult time, we are all storm weary. Extend grace.

  4. Hurricane Leary? says:

    Does anybody reading this really think that the voters of Winter Park would have approved building their new library in a flood area?


    Maybe the new design for the library will feature an under water theme, complete with fish and alligators swimming by the windows where patrons read?

    And the librarians can issue snorkels and scuba gear when they hand out library cards?

    Bring in your book late? No problem. Just put on your fishing boots and show them your FEMA approval for extension?

    There’s an old saying about “three strikes and you’re out.”

    1) Leary approved putting the events center / library in MLK Park without voter approval.
    2) Leary ignored a petition signed by over 2,000 residents requesting that the events center / library not be built in MLK Park, and refused to allow the petition to go to the voters to decide.
    3) Leary ignored recent weather events’ proof that MLK Park is not suitable for development.

    Maybe what Winter Park really needs is protection from Hurricane Leary?

  5. Lennon says:

    I completely agree. I worked with the city as my home started flooding at 1321 Magnolia Ave. after living there for almost 20 years. The front yard would flood from time to time but nothing like what i experience the last 2 years. I spoke with Randy Knight and he said there was no $ to do that yet they continued to issue development permits. The more they issued the worse the flooding got. I left WP as a result of the flooding and the city’s attitude. I had an engineer do a preliminary study and gave it to the city. They followed up and it seems that the issue covers 6 blocks and about 26 acres. Some of this involves Seminole County. Carolyn Cooper told me Seminole Co and the city have agreed to do another study. Don Marcott, city drainage engineer was helpful but he was the only one who was. I suggested to Comm. Cooper that rather than spending $ on another study the $ would be better spent on fixinf the problem. This went no where and i ended up having to sell my home at a significant loss. This doesn’t address the undergrounding of utilities that the citizens supported and the city’s request. That has stalled i understand.

  6. Hurricane Dreams says:

    We don’t pay taxes for service. We pay taxes so that we can enjoy the delusion that the government provides a service to us.


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