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ORLANDO, Fla. – Widespread flooding has led to hundreds of evacuations throughout Orange County, Florida, after Hurricane Ian dumped more than a foot of rain overnight, with more expected Thursday.
Flash Flood Warnings were issued earlier Thursday as rainfall totals between 8 and 16 inches were reported in some areas. The National Weather Service said tropical storm winds from former Ian are expected to leave the county by 1 a.m. Friday.
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"While Orange County is weathering the storm fairly well, I am going to say that we are cautiously optimistic the worst of the storm has passed," Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.
First responders received multiple calls for high-water rescues. One of the largest was at Avante at Orlando, a nursing home that received about a foot of water inside the facility.
Vehicles were submerged outside as firefighters brought patients out one-by-one on stretchers and in wheelchairs. There were 106 residents inside at the time, Ashley Gibson, a public information officer with Orange County Fire Rescue, told FOX Weather.
"There are certain sections of the county where it just looks like had a typical Florida afternoon thunderstorm, and then there are other parts where vehicles are almost completely submerged," Gibson said.
The storm hit the Orla Vista area hard – an area historically prone to flooding.
According to Demings, another significant rescue was performed in the Hope Circle area, where firefighters were assisted by law enforcement personnel. Two or more of the people who were rescued were in wheelchairs and would not have been able to get out of their homes on their own, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.
County officials said water rescues occurred in 12 other neighborhoods.
The National Guard has deployed six high-water trucks to three fire stations to assist with rescues.
Shelters in the county are housing more than 1,500 residents, including 200 people with special needs. While some shelter guests have returned to their homes, new evacuees are arriving due to flooding.
As of 9 a.m. Thursday, more than 200,000 households in the county are without power.
Utility crews have to pause their work when wind speeds reach 35 mph, and the county can continue to expect sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph and gusts up to 50 mph throughout the day.