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Storm's damage brings out fear, frustration, faith

Residents are left picking up the pieces and figuring out where to go after Wednesday's strong winds.

By KINFAY MOROTI, Times Staff Writer
Published July 22, 2005

LARGO - Betty Hubal stood in front of mangled aluminum Thursday and wished she were dead.

Only once before had the 92-year-old coveted death. In February, when her only child, Evelyn, 70, died of a rare blood disease, Hubal had made a dark prayer. But she managed to live on, alone in her mobile home.

On Wednesday, violent winds descended on Hubal's street in the Palm Hill Country Club mobile home park. They ripped apart her roof, broke windows and shattered her peace.

Afterward, a neighbor called Hubal's family in Sun City.

"They told me about the storm and that Betty needed me," said Tom Gurrister, the husband of Hubal's niece. "When I got there, she was shaking pretty bad and picking up pieces of broken glass. I hugged her, sat her down and said it was going to be all right."

By 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Gurrister had restored power to her home and comfort to her nerves. He returned Thursday morning and sat outside her house among curled strips of aluminum that no hands could untangle.

He called the insurance company. Still scared, Hubal paced nearby and told Gurrister that someone her age shouldn't be going through such strife.

A block away, Hilda Scholl was dealing with frustration of a different sort. Tightly gripping a broom, Scholl swept her driveway as if she were digging a grave. She paused occasionally to eye swarms of media trucks and curious gawkers.

She silently wished the invaders would go away. "Nobody ever gave a damn about us before, but now all of a sudden we're famous," Scholl said.

Scholl's home suffered minor damage. She prayed late Wednesday night to St. Aparecida, the patron saint of Brazil, for protection from future storms.

"It's really not fair," she said of the storm battering her community. "But nobody can prevent them from happening."

Ten feet away, a man standing in the middle of her street screamed into a cell phone.

"I am going to need a lot more business cards," said Mike Clayton of ServiceMaster Clean, a disaster restoration company. Phone in hand, Clayton directed company trucks to broken homes.

"When I saw the damage I felt pretty bad. Yeah, we will get business because of it, but we're human too," he said.

Later, a co-worker handed Clayton a stack of business cards. He pocketed them and took off down the street. Finished sweeping, Scholl turned away and went inside her home.

* * *

Honeyvine mobile home park resident Bill Pringle has no home to go to.

His face bathed in tears, Pringle sat in his neighbor's mobile home Thursday, determined to hold on to his faith.

"I try to take life as it comes, but this is tough," said Pringle, whose mobile home was destroyed by Wednesday's storms. All that remained were a few personal items and his most prized possessions: a hymnal and a collection of more than 700 sheets of classical music.

With help from his insurance company, his son David and his neighbors, he hopes to purchase a new mobile home.

Before he can do that, he still has to work. He went back to both his jobs Thursday morning, delivering laundry and telemarketing.

"God must have a plan for me," he said as he wiped away the last tear from his weathered face. "And I am going to do my part and have faith."

Kinfay Moroti can be reached at 580-3177 or kmoroti@sptimes.com

[Last modified July 22, 2005, 00:33:20]


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