Mobile home residents frustrated by power outage

Thirteen units at the Southern Comfort park haven't had electricity since Thursday, and the wait continues.

By TAMARA EL-KHOURY, Times Staff Writer
Published September 25, 2007

CLEARWATER - Every day since the power went out, Lindsey Hernandez drives her children to the Shell gas station where she works.

Her children, 5-year-old Angel and 1-year old Catalina, need electricity for the medicine-releasing breathing machine that treats their asthma. Since Thursday's power outage, the only solution is to use the nebulizer at the gas station.

All of Hernandez's groceries have spoiled. Since she doesn't have any family in the area to take them in, she spends her days driving her kids, including 3-year-old twins, to stores and restaurants to cool off.

"We can't get a straight story on what happened," she said.

Hernandez, 22, lives in one of 13 mobile homes at the Southern Comfort mobile home park off U.S. Highway 19 N that has been without power since Thursday.

The park's general manager, Luther Moore, said he's had electricians working to fix the power outage, which could last two to three more days.

"Things have gotten worse by the minute," he said.

On Friday, Progress Energy employees told him the park's underground lines were bad and needed to be fixed. The lines are privately owned by the mobile home park, said Cherie Jacobs, spokeswoman for Progress Energy.

Moore said he hired electricians who dug 250 feet to reach the cracked and burned lines, which he estimated were 40 years old.

"I can't even hook up a generator and run it for them, the lines are so bad," Moore said.

When Progress Energy workers tested the lines Saturday, they determined the problem wasn't fixed.

Also, the county's building department said the current wiring didn't meet code requirements. They told Moore to replace all the power lines that feed the 13 mobile homes and replace six pedestals - casings that attach the meter box to the wires.

Moore estimates it will cost him more than $15,000.

"Now people know why all these parks just don't make much sense anymore," he said.

While Hernandez and other frustrated residents have called Progress Energy every hour, demanding answers and threatening to take legal action, Jacobs said the problem is in the park's hands.

The park has 176 lots. Rent is $441 a month.

Hernandez's neighbor Hampton King, 60, found refuge at his brother's place in Largo. However, since pets aren't allowed, King has to drive to his mobile home twice a day to feed his cat, Lucy.

"They just don't seem to care, period, about anybody or anything," King said of the park's managers.

He said the park has experienced all kinds of sewage and plumbing problems in the two years he has lived there.

Deborah Adair used a battery-powered fan and a cooler filled with ice to keep herself going. She had to do laundry at her father's house. He took her out to eat because all her food was spoiled. She charged her cell phone at work. Frustrated by the lack of information, she contacted local newspapers and television stations to get some answers.

"We don't think that Progress Energy is being quite fair to us," Adair said.

By Monday afternoon, some resourceful residents had already devised their own solution. They ran orange power cords across the street to connect to friendly neighbors with power to share.

Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at (727) 445-4181.