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Storks trail storms by 9 months

A legacy of last year's storms might be the number of births reported at some Florida hospitals.

Published June 10, 2005

[Times photo: Daniel Wallace]
Caren Brush, 25, and Jonathan Cerezo, 24, hold their new daughter, Vivienne Scarlett Cerezo, who was born at 1:03 p.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital in Tampa.

TAMPA - Disasters such as power blackouts or earthquakes have long been suspected to cause people to become closer.

Sometimes much closer.

The four hurricanes that struck Florida last summer did more than damage roofs and knock down trees. They may also be responsible for a minor baby boom in certain parts of the state.

We'll do the math.

Hurricane Charley struck Aug. 13-15, followed a few weeks later by Francis, Ivan and Jeanne. At one point in September, three storms - Ivan, Jeanne and Karl - were brewing at the same time.

Fast-forward nine months. Lots of little Charleys, Ivans, Franceses and Jeannes, although for obvious reasons, it appears few if any parents actually selected those names.

Caren Brush was resting comfortably Thursday on the third floor of St. Joseph's Women's Hospital in Tampa. Brush, 25, said she and Jonathan Cerezo, 24, were forced to remain in their Lutz apartment during Hurricane Frances last September.

"We didn't lose power," Brush said, "but we had to stay home for about a week."

The result was 6-pound, 8-ounce Vivienne Scarlett, born at 1:03 p.m. Wednesday.

Told that the 2005 hurricane season is predicted to be just as busy as last year, Brush laughed. "No, no," she said. "One's enough for a while."

Patti Parker, a registered nurse who is an educator in the hospital's mother-baby unit, said births were up 15 percent in May, and 20 percent so far in June.

"The staff has had to work extra shifts," she said, adding that the hospital usually delivers about 20 babies a day.

In the first three days of June, they delivered 80.

Parker attributed at least some of the births to the hurricanes. "It could help people cope with stress," she said.

Tampa General Hospital, St. Petersburg's Bayfront Medical Center and several other area hospitals reported no unusual spikes in the number of births.

But at Winter Park Memorial Hospital, births were up 20 percent. The same was true at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne.

At Peace River Regional Medical Center in Port Charlotte, which has the only licensed obstetric and pediatric units in Charlotte County, the hospital was bursting at its seams.

In May last year, there were 76 births, about the average for any month.

This May, there were 102 births, the majority in last two weeks of the month.

"Almost nine months to the day after Charley, we were exploding in babies," said Peace River marketing director Danielle Dreher. "We had to shut down one of our pediatric units to make room for all the moms."

Dreher said the onslaught began about May 13 and started tapering off around May 26.

The hospital didn't specifically ask parents if the births were hurricane related.

"But one can deduce," Dreher said. "People had a lot of time on their hands. We didn't have power, no TV, no movies. What else do you do?"

Dreher did say that none of the babies was named Charley.

"Go figure," she said. "I guess people didn't want to relive the hurricane."

--Staff writer Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler contributed to this report.

[Last modified June 10, 2005, 01:10:11]

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