IRMA: 121 evacuated from 2 Orange County assisted living facilities

By Julie Gargotta, Jerry Hume and Erin Murray, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Thursday, September 14, 2017, 6:58 PM EDT

Two Central Florida nursing homes were evacuated Wednesday night as a lack of power remains the top concern Thursday morning following Hurricane Irma.

  • Brookdale evacuated 82 residents from Wekiwa Springs facility
  • Green Tree assisted living facility also evacuated 39 people
  • Many homes, businesses still without power days after Irma

Now, some of sounding the alarm with the hope that leaders will focus on senior care following the storm.

"I want them to go to these facilities, to be inspected to make sure that they're hurricane read," said Maryann Latorre, whose 83-year-old father had to be evacuated from a nursing home. "These are our mothers and fathers, our grandparents. They deserve the best care."

Orange County Fire Rescue officials were called to the Green Tee assisted living facility on Forest City Road, where 39 residents were evacuated, some by LYNX bus.

On Thursday morning, a manager at Green Tee said it had notified the state about its issues, and it determined it was best to move their residents to sister facilities.

They have a small generator to power a refrigerator, and eight residents did stay behind, using window air-conditioning units. But officials there said it could be another couple of days before the facility has power.

On Wednesday night, Orange Fire Rescue directed all of its sectors to check every nursing home to make sure they have food, water and power.

Meanwhile, 82 people were evacuated from the Brookdale Wekiwa Springs Senior Living facility on South Wekiwa Springs Road in Apopka, also because it is without electricity.

Most were taken to sister facilities that do have power.

Three people were hospitalized after a Fire Rescue captain chose to notify the Department of Children and Families. DCF then requested the assistance of the Sheriff’s Office to help with the evacuation.

Brookdale said families were notified before the residents were moved.

"This is an at-risk population," said Kat Kennedy, with Orange County Fire Rescue. "It's been top of mind since the storm was approaching. I think what happened in South Florida certainly shined light on the severity of the situation. And as the time goes by, the situations can deteriorate rapidly."

Brookdale did evacuate some of its facilities before Irma made landfall, as well.

Brookdale said the Wekiwa Spring residents will remain at the temporary locations until power is restored and officials clear the facility.

Three people were taken to a hospital, including Latorre's father.

"Nobody called to help him, not until I called and complained," Latorre said. "When I talked to Elder Abuse, they called paramedics to help my dad, and they said he needed to go out and he evaluated."

Latorre said her father suffered a cut on his arm after he fell during the hurricane. She said doctors diagnosed him with dehydration, as well.

"I was shocked to see and feel that there was no air, there was no lighting, it was dark," she said.

This all comes on the heels of a tragedy in South Florida when eight people died in a sweltering nursing home in Hollywood Hills.

Gov. Rick Scott said he’s demanding answers, directing agencies to work with law enforcement on an investigation.

News 13 spoke with a communications coordinator at Brookdale, who said that they're mobilizing additional generators to supplement power and that every community has an emergency plan. In addition, they devised activities for some seniors, like bus trips, to keep them occupied and cool. Hydration stations have also been set up in various spots.

A statement on their website said in part:

"In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, we remain focused on the safety and comfort of residents and our associates that care for them. While we are still assessing the extent of property damage and power outages at our communities, we are working as quickly as we can to return to normal. We are mobilizing generators to communities that may need additional power."

If you have a specific question about a loved one at Brookdale, you can contact the Resident and Family Connection line for help at 1-877-400-5296.