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Depression closes two U.S. 19 lanes in Spring Hill; Picture of storm damage in Hernando comes into focus

SPRING HILL — Tropical Storm Debby isn't done yet.

With receding floodwaters and clear skies above, the storm's latest aftershock hit Hernando County residents early Friday when a ground depression formed and partially shut down one of the county's busiest highways.

The depression formed along the southbound lanes of U.S. 19, just south of Spring Hill Drive, and though barely visible it shut two of the three lanes down.

The road could reopen as early as today, authorities said.

The depression was first noticed about 2 a.m. Friday as crews were resurfacing the road. Both the outside and center lanes were closed shortly afterward, said Kris Carson, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Transportation.

It made for quite the headache.

Spring Hill resident Peter Zahos, 65, pulled into a CVS store near the intersection Friday afternoon, frustrated with the traffic. He said his errands were taking about 15 minutes longer than normal.

"The congestion has been really bad," Zahos said. "I'm behind schedule."

Harold Roy, also of Spring Hill, agreed.

"It was very bad compared to normal," he said.

Underneath the depression, workers found several voids, Carson said.

Crews were planning to pump grout into them Friday night, she said, with hopes of being able to reopen the lanes today.

Staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432.

Friday's developments in Debby's aftermath

• Several roads across Hernando County remained closed Friday because of either flooding or sinkholes. Some of the major ones included the Suncoast Parkway north of State Road 50, Mariner Boulevard from Little Street to Claymore Street, and Powell Road, both east and west sides of U.S. 41. For the most up-to-date information on road closures, check the county's website at co.hernando.fl.us.

• Initial estimates show at least 139 homes across Hernando were damaged by Tropical Storm Debby's floodwaters, said Cecilia Patella, the county's emergency management director. The majority of the homes sustained inside water damage. Ten inspected homes had no damage. There are at least 75 more homes left to be inspected, officials said.

• Emergency officials have documented 135 sinkholes at 51 locations.

• Six Hernando schools had a total of about $16,000 in damage from the storm.

• Seven businesses reported flood damage.

• A portion of Mariner Boulevard near Little Street remained closed as teams continued to assess a massive sinkhole. It could be weeks before the sinkhole is repaired and the road is reopened, officials said.

• Republic Services will resume suspended recycling collection services on Monday.

• Crews are working to repair erosion at Alfred A. McKethan Park on Pine Island and hope the park will be open by the Fourth of July holiday on Wednesday. They will have a better idea by early next week. Debby's high tides and winds stole about 800 cubic yards of sand from the man-made beach. Repairs are expected to cost between $8,000 and $10,000.

• Though experts predicted earlier this week that the Withlacoochee River might flood its banks, it doesn't appear that will be the case. The river remained several feet below flood stage Friday evening.

• The Hernando County Health Department urged residents to be cautious when dealing with the flooding left by Tropical Storm Debby. Their advice: Avoid it. Don't drive through the floodwaters, and don't play in them. Officials warned that the water could carry contaminants, hidden debris and snakes. They noted that the water could also be touching downed power lines.

Depression closes two U.S. 19 lanes in Spring Hill; Picture of storm damage in Hernando comes into focus 06/29/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 29, 2012 8:38pm]
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