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Rains refresh, also bring stress

Several homes flood, wires fall and 2,700 lose electricity on a night when a quarter-inch to 2 inches of rain falls.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 7, 2001

Several homes flood, wires fall and 2,700 lose electricity on a night when a quarter-inch to 2 inches of rain falls.

The most recent dry spell may be over. But for some Hernando residents, this week's heavy rains have been no cause for celebration.

During Tuesday evening's storm, several homes in the Hill 'n Dale subdivision east of Brooksville flooded, with the most serious damage near the intersection of Simona Avenue and Cammie Street, county officials said.

Residents said it took less than an hour after the storm hit about 6 p.m. for a nearby dry retention pond to fill with rain, overflow and flood their yards and homes.

"We held it for about 20 minutes, but it got to be more than a couple of Shop-Vacs could handle," said Nick Keller, whose house on Simona Avenue received the worst damage.

Water came under doors, through the garage and eventually through the floor of a room addition, Keller said. In the two dozen years he has lived in his home, the Parrott Middle School teacher said, Tuesday's flooding was the worst he had seen.

On Wednesday, professional cleaners used giant blue hoses to pump water from carpet and furniture. A visible line showed that floodwaters had risen on the walls about 6 inches. The house should be dry in four or five days if there is no more flooding, Keller said.

"But you never can tell what will happen," said Keller, who tried to get flood insurance when he bought his home but was told that it is not in a designated flood zone. "We can't assume we won't get heavy rain again."

Keller and his family plan to stay with a neighbor until the house is dry and power and telephone service can be restored.

Next door, Elizabeth Darcy and her 14-year-old son, Sean, swept debris off their driveway and front porch. About 4 inches of water had filled their house Tuesday night.

"I have never seen anything like what I saw yesterday," said Mrs. Darcy, who moved into the home with her family eight months ago. "The rain came down in sheets."

Less than an hour after the rain began, Darcy said, she watched a hubcap float by her mailbox into the retention area across the street. Shortly after that, water began coming into her house underneath the doors.

Neither family's insurance company has estimated the damage, but Darcy said she was sure her $500 deductible would not cover her ruined wall-to-wall carpeting and other losses.

Sue Martineau, a county emergency management technician, said about a half-dozen homes in Hill 'n Dale flooded.

Hernando County fire departments handled dozens of calls Tuesday evening for automatic fire alarms, downed electrical wires and branches, said Chief Mike Morgan of Spring Hill Fire Rescue. One home, on Pitcairn Street north of High Point, was hit by a tree but was not severely damaged, he said.

"Things got pretty busy," Morgan said. "But we're always prepared for things of that nature."

Officials at the National Weather Service in Ruskin estimated that winds must have topped 60 mph in some places in Hernando County to cause the damage reported by residents.

"When we see large-scale damage like they had out there, it tells us the winds are fairly severe," said Rick Davis, a weather service forecaster.

High winds and heavy rain missed the Hernando County Airport, south of Brooksville, where the weather service has its official Hernando tracking station. But rain estimates from weather service volunteers ranged from a quarter-inch to 2 inches throughout the county, Davis said.

Wind and rain caused power outages for about 2,700 customers of the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative in the Spring Lake and Hill 'n Dale areas starting about 6 p.m. Tuesday, said Withlacoochee spokesman Ernie Holzhauer.

While most had power again by 9 p.m., crews worked through the night to restore power to a few remaining customers, Holzhauer said.

More rain fell in some locations around Hernando County on Wednesday evening, but there were no immediate reports of power outages, storm damage or flooding.

No one called the county's social services office for help Wednesday, but coordinator Jean Rags said her office refers families in crisis to First Call For Help, a non-profit United Way organization that can pair people with resources. The number is 684-2273.

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