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Stress levels rise with persistent flooding

Residents across the county are struggling to find some normalcy as floodwater from lakes and rivers inches toward and beyond their doors.

BRIDGET HALL GRUMET
Published September 15, 2004

HUDSON - Most of Jim Cable's neighbors have smaller cars that would never make it through the flooded stretches of Frierson Lake Drive, where the standing water is more than 2 feet deep.

So Cable has turned his pickup truck into the neighborhood's water taxi. He ferries kids to the bus stop, hauls away the garbage and takes residents from their waterlogged homes to the neighborhood entrance at Hicks Road, just north of State Road 52.

"If it gets any higher," Cable said, driving through one of the submerged sections of the road, "we're going to have to start using rowboats."

Fueled by rain from two hurricanes and the usual summer storms, floodwaters have returned with a vengeance to many of the Pasco County neighborhoods that flooded last summer. At last count, at least 30 homes across the county had water inside and 86 others were surrounded by water, and officials expect that number to rise.

"We're getting more rain, and some of those people live in an area where the water runs to from higher areas . . . so it keeps coming up several days after the rain," said Michele Baker, the county's director of Emergency Management.

Frierson Lake in Hudson has spilled so far beyond its usual boundaries that Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative shut off power Tuesday to two water-soaked homes.

Marie Gavit's home on Frierson Lake Drive is dry but surrounded by water. As floodwaters rose over the weekend, Gavit stashed her precious photo albums in her car and moved it to higher ground.

"I can buy another stove. I can buy another bed. I can buy more shoes," Gavit said. "You can't replace your photos."

County crews have set up pumps at Frierson Lake and a dozen other areas. The county's flood task force meets each morning to evaluate the trouble spots and decide whether it can pump the water away.

Pumping isn't an option for the homes along Bass Lake in New Port Richey, however, because there's simply nowhere to send the water. Sunrise Lane is under several feet of algae-covered water, peppered with dead bass, beer cans and other debris. Parts of Cameo Drive are impassible and water is washing into several homes along the peaceful lake.

"They've got to do something with this," sighed Jarad Keesee, whose mobile home sits on higher ground along Cameo Drive. "There's nowhere to send (the water). It's got nowhere to drain."

County officials tried to buy out the flooded homeowners after last year's flood, but only six of the 22 affected property owners were interested, Baker said. The county needs everyone to agree to make the buy worthwhile, she said.

"I either need to get everybody out and turn that into a park or open space, which is what we would do, or we need to look at other options," Baker said.

As for the Magnolia Valley flooding saga, the owner of the Magnolia Valley Golf Club temporarily suspended pumping Monday evening, but resumed the effort about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The course is covered with 4 or more feet of water. Officials there say they need to drain water to alleviate flooding of nearby homes. But businesses and a mobile home park to the west have complained, saying they have been deluged by the water, which flows under Rowan Road and through a series of culverts and wetlands on its way to the gulf.

Times staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this report.

Bridget Hall Grumet can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is bhall@sptimes.com

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