Osceola County approves study assessing flood-prone communities in Kissimmee

As Florida enters the second month of hurricane season, Osceola County commissioners have approved a project to assess flooding issues in certain Kissimmee communities.

Hurricane Ian devastated communities like the Good Samaritan Retirement Community and the Pebble Point neighborhood, after the storm left flooding in its wake in September 2022. 

"I don’t think we can go through that again. It looked like a disaster zone here," Jacquelynn Whitehurst said. Speaking exclusively with FOX 35’s Kelsie Cairns, Whitehurst explained she had to be rescued by airboat after four feet of floodwater compromised her home. 

At a regular commission meeting, the board passed the Shingle Creek and Kissimmee River Water Resources Defense Act (WRDA). 

The project, with a $3 million price tag, will study areas between Shingle Creek and Lake Tohopekaliga.

The study's goal is to, "come up with a long-term, permanent solution to the issues associated with our chain of lakes," according to the county.

Vegetative overgrowth, like the invasive hydrilla plant in Lake Tohopekaliga, is disrupting the natural flow of floodwaters downstream, the county says. 

With nowhere for this water to go, more than 1,700 homes were flooded during Hurricane Ian, and thousands of people were displaced. 

"You’re expecting to ride out a storm like that in this area, not necessarily leave because of flooding," Whitehurst said. 

She said she woke up early the next morning after Ian rolled through to her house underwater. 

"There was about three to four feet [of water]. There were frogs everywhere in the house. It was a disaster," she said. 

She says she is concerned about her home with this hurricane season already breaking records. 

"I’m looking for potential outs, possibly heading out of the state at this point," she said. "I don’t want to experience that again."

Osceola County will join forces with the US Army Corp of Engineers to complete this study over the next three years.