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Coastal Hernando residents clean up from aftermath of storm surge

HERNANDO BEACH — More than three hours before Friday's early morning high tide, Thomas Thompson woke up to find water seeping under the front door of his house on Eagle Nest Drive.

"We tried to put blankets under the door, but there was nothing we could do to stop it," said Thompson, 58.

About 2 feet of floodwaters eventually soaked furniture, a television and a stereo system, he said.

"Everything in the house is destroyed," Thompson said.

Thompson and his wife, Joyce, 57, who rent the home on Eagle Nest, were part of the group hit hardest by the storm surge kicked up by Hurricane Hermine — residents of ground-level homes in Hernando's coastal communities.

As water receded from what some residents called the worst flooding since the no-name storm of March 1993, side streets remained covered by deep puddles and palm fronds and other debris.

Water began to rise again with the afternoon high tide, forcing the closure of Osowaw Boulevard.

Overall on Friday, about 4,000 Hernando homes lost power, according to Hernando County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Denise Moloney. Alfred A. McKethan Park at Pine Island was closed, as was Pine Island Drive, which was covered by about a foot of swiftly flowing water at 8 a.m.

Though the road later opened, it remained covered by shallow water, and Moloney requested in a written statement that if drivers "don't need to go there, don't."

Bayport Park on the coast also was closed until further notice due to damage to the fishing pier, the county said.

Though the Sheriff's Office reported no serious injuries, the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rescued several residents, including a pregnant woman and her 5-year-old child on Wimberly Court along the Weeki Wachee River. County crews were just beginning to count the number of damaged homes Friday afternoon, but low-lying streets such as Eagle Nest were lined with water pooled in yards and residents sorting through soaked belongings.

About 6 inches of water had inundated the house Diane Davignon rents across the street from the Thompsons.

The worst of the damage was in their garage, which had served as a storage space for possessions, including boxes of clothes and a baby stroller for her granddaughter. Floodwaters lifted and scattered it all, said Davignon, 64, briefly opening the door from the house to show the wreckage.

"It's a mess in there," she said, then pointed to a backyard pool filled with brown runoff.

"It used to be crystal clear," said her husband, Andre, 70.

Maygan Smith, a Realtor with Dennis Property Management, examined a home on nearby Pine Dale Court with water marks 2 feet up from the floor on the interior walls.

The house, which had been repossessed by the federal Department of Revenue, was due to be auctioned, Smith said.

When she first entered, she thought the roof had leaked, she said. Then she noticed the soaked drywall and one room's "squishy" carpet.

"I said, 'Oh my God!' " she said.

It was the first of 13 homes managed by the company that Smith planned to inspect.

"This is really bad," she said.

On Cortez Boulevard near the entrance to Bayport Park, Jeff Christie; his wife, Nina, and the owner of the home the couple rents, Reed Lovejoy, surveyed damage left by the storm.

The decks around the house had been displaced by rising water, and the yard was covered with a matt of dead needle grass, bottles, cans, fishing floats and flip-flops.

Though some residents, including Thompson, complained about a lack of warning for the storm, Jeff Christie said they had been preparing for it since Thursday evening..

"I've been up all night," he said.

Contact Dan DeWitt at ddewitt@tampabay.com; follow @ddewitttimes.

Coastal Hernando residents clean up from aftermath of storm surge 09/02/16 [Last modified: Friday, September 2, 2016 2:36pm]
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