Troubles on rise as rain falls
By JAMIE JONES, Times Staff Writer
A small tempest swamped Brooksville Tuesday night, turning roads into rivers and leaving pools of water in several businesses and homes. The storm ended shortly before sunset as a giant rainbow replaced gray skies downtown.
The downpour also created problems in Spring Hill, where a new sinkhole about 20 feet in diameter opened behind a Bedford Road home.
The Lowden family walked across their yard in the rain and listened to the earth gurgle as it collapsed.
Samantha Lowden, 16, was wide-eyed as she looked at the hole, 10 to 15 feet from a shed and pool in her back yard and about 100 feet from the family's cream-colored home.
"We thought it was moving the other way," Lowden said Wednesday. "We were shocked that it came so close."
The Lowdens' home abuts a county drainage retention area off Amidon Street that has been plagued by sinkholes in recent weeks. Several new sinkholes were discovered in that area on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The rains came hardest in Brooksville, which took 3-4 inches from midnight Monday to midnight Tuesday, national weather forecasters estimated. Firefighters handed out sandbags to residents worried about their homes.
One resident on Kings Circle was forced to evacuate when water spilled into the house, authorities said. At least two businesses -- Nichols Masonry Inc. and P.J.'s Army-Navy on Ponce De Leon Boulevard -- were flooded with several inches of rain Tuesday night.
"Our materials are ruined, everything is soaked," said Cheryl Nichols, 46, as she and firefighters used brooms to push four inches of water out of the business.
Several intersections flooded, including Croom Road and U.S. 41, W North Avenue and Ponce De Leon Boulevard, as well as sections of Mitchell Road.
Police officers stood in the rain directing traffic. Cedar Lane also was closed Wednesday after the rain washed out a pipe on a new culvert Tuesday night. The county Public Works Department was trying to fix and reopen the road by late Wednesday.
City Public Works officials took about 100 sandbags to homes and intersections that had heavy flooding, and Brooksville firefighters were offering sandbags to residents on Wednesday.
"We'll help you put them down if we're not busy," said Brooksville Fire Chief Jim Daugherty.
Mark Tobert of Emergency Management responded on Wednesday to 10 calls from residents worried about possible sinkholes in their yards. None appeared to be sinkholes, but Tobert said several new holes had opened in the drainage retention area off Amidon.
The county Public Works Department started Wednesday refilling sinkholes at the Seven Hills Golf Club, said Assistant Director Steve Whitaker.
He said they will start today filling the sinkholes in a drainage retention area off Mariner Boulevard and on Friday will work on Amidon Street. He estimated the project will require 1,000 to 1,500 cubic yards of sand and should cost as much as $10,000.
Meanwhile, forecasters predict rain through next week.
Ron Morales of the National Weather Service said the rain has been caused in part by a storm system that moved slowly last week from Georgia and Alabama to Florida. Here it met with tropical moisture swept in from the Gulf of Mexico.
"I don't see much changing for Hernando, at least not for the next two or three days," Morales said.
Anyone who needs sandbags can call the Brooksville Fire Department at 544-5445. For sinkhole questions, call Emergency Management at 754-4083.
-- Jamie Jones covers law enforcement and courts and can be reached at 754-6114. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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