Saturday, April 21, 2018
News Roundup

Debby came out of nowhere to deluge Pasco

The beep on my cellphone woke me up at 5:50 Sunday morning.

"Golf tournament canceled.''

That the organizers hadn't made the call the night before gives you some insight into the eternal optimism of weekend golfers who always swear the really heavy stuff won't come down for several hours. All the forecasters had promised Sunday would be a washout.

At any rate, I was now wide awake. I opened the front door to let Alfie out. He looked up at me and retreated to the couch. I made a mad dash to the newspaper, which was soaked.

No big deal. Our carrier almost always gets it right, so rather than call for a new paper I just drove down to Walgreens. Only a few days earlier we had left Boulder, Colo. enveloped in smoke from nearby wildfires. Folks there would kill for our rain, I thought as I prepared some coffee.

This would be a good day to do nothing.

By midafternoon, the rain showed no sign of easing. Water collected in the side yard, then found its way under the door to the garage. In 30 years, we've had this happen only a few times. The solution: put down some towels and newspapers. But this time, the water rushed in and threatened some wood furniture.

We swept and put more towels down, barely slowing the flow. A neighbor mentioned the Pasco Sheriff's Office was distributing sandbags. Without thinking it through, I hopped in my Honda Accord and took off for what is usually a 10-minute trip.

Big mistake.

The first sign of trouble came at the corner of State Road 52 and Little Road. Three drivers abandoned compact cars that had died when they hit standing water. This seemed bad enough, and then I headed south on Little Road and saw the same scene repeated at three other intersections.

What was I thinking? On the radio, an announcer seemed to scream at people like me: STAY OFF THE ROADS! All over the Tampa Bay region, emergency crews were responding to stranded motorists.

I approached Ridge Road. It would be just another half-mile. But at the intersection, a sheriff's cruiser parked in the middle of the six-lane highway, now under water.

Forget the sandbags. I just wanted to get back home. I cut through the Home Depot parking lot and headed west on four-lane Ridge. I figured if I could get to U.S. 19, I'd be okay. Surely a highway that big wouldn't be flooded.

I still don't understand how my little Honda survived either Ridge or 19. A foot of rain in less than 10 hours had made them both more suitable to boats.

Back home we bailed and swept water from the garage, but mainly we worried as the little creek out back grew into a lake. During Hurricane Elena in 1985, Bear Creek came up under our kids' swing set and a small alligator paid us a visit. But the water never really threatened our house.

Today I'm not so sure, even after a relatively dry Monday and Tuesday. The creek keeps inching up. It's a common story throughout West Pasco, especially near the Anclote and Pithlachascotee rivers, where helpless homeowners are evacuating.

Some of them told our reporters they stayed put during Elena and the more notorious No Name Storm of March 1993. They never thought a relatively small weather system many miles to the north would have such a disastrous effect.

This storm named Debby has earned a dubious place in our history, even as hurricane season is just getting started.

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