SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Seminole County Government officials hope homeowners are taking steps to prepare for a hurricane, even if no storms currently present a direct threat to Central Florida.

They say people can take steps now to avoid having stacks of tree debris at curbs across the county that caused major problems.

“Handle it ow well before the storm. The time to do that is not right before the storm because resources are already at a maximum.  So do it now, get prepared and we’ll all be better for it,” said Jeff Waters, Manager of Seminole County’s Environment Services Department Solid Waste Management Division.

Waters says after a huge storm, the county will pick up large tree debris, but they can’t do it with their normal yard waste pickups. 

They say only contractors with trucks, brought in after the storm, can pick up those large limbs and tree trunks, and they say that process takes time.

Shaun Flavin remembers during Hurricane Irma, every wind gust brought a terrifying fear that one of several huge trees outside his Longwood home would come crashing down on this family.

“It was a bad storm, I was pretty worried,” said Flavin. “We put on a brave face for the kids. Luckily we came out okay.”

But Flavin says he’s not taking any more chances.

“I didn’t want to go through that again, I knew these trees had to come out,” said Flavin.

Flavin had A Sun State Tree remove several trees. It will cost him money, but tree experts say it will cost a homeowner less money to remove the trees before a major storm hits than after.

“After is a lot more expensive, and you will regret not doing it ahead of time, I can tell you that,” said Tom Stone with A Sun State Trees.

Waters says tree debris left at curbs across the county after Irma created a huge traffic hazard.

“Don’t block the street,” said Waters. “If you block the street, you’re impeding traffic and bigger problems can occur.”

The chopped up pieces of Flavin’s trees will be hauled away by the tree removal service, and with them, his worries about what could happen when another storm comes.

“It was leaning towards the house, and it did have the age, and sure enough it was a hazard that was just waiting to happen,” said Flavin.

Tree experts say trees near a home need to be trimmed about every four to five years. They say when wind can’t flow through trees, that’s when it usually causes damage.

More tips from Seminole County Government for homeowners, before and after a storm:

Before a storm:

  • Prepare your home by trimming or removing any trees in danger of falling down
  • Tree-trimming services should haul the debris they create
  • Make sure your HOA/management company files a "Right of Entry" form annually if you live in a gated community, so crews can access the neighborhood for pick-ups

After a storm:

  • Get debris out as quickly as possible
  • Bundle debris
  • Combine piles with neighbors if you can to ensure quicker collection
  • Don’t block roads, driveways, hydrants, mailboxes
  • Bundle, bag or containerize small debris

A Sun State Tree crew is expected to head to the Carolinas later in the week to be ready for damage expected when Hurricane Florence makes landfall.