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Power restored to most customers Saturday as cleanup continues

Two days after storms tore through the Tampa Bay area, crews restored power to most residents Saturday as neighborhoods continued to clean up trees and debris.

By Saturday afternoon, the majority of Tampa Electric customers had power, said Rick Morera, a company spokesman.

Some isolated outages remained, and other homes were so badly damaged that power could not be restored, Morera said.

The utility company planned to have crew members work throughout the night to address any remaining issues.

The majority of the outages were caused by tree limbs knocking down power lines. Damaged transmission poles were replaced with high-wind resistant concrete or wooden poles, Morera said.

Fewer than 40 Progress Energy customers in Pinellas County remained without power Saturday afternoon.

In Progress Village, one of the hardest hit areas of Hillsborough County, the sound of chain saws filled the air Saturday afternoon.

"There's a lot to clean up," said Henrissa Barry, the assistant principal at nearby Giunta Middle School. A dozen employees and students from the school grabbed rakes and hand saws and made their way to the battered neighborhood.

Hundreds of volunteers with Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay, a nonprofit organization that repairs the homes of those in need, also helped.

The organization had already decided to target Progress Village with its next project before the storm struck, executive director Jose Garcia said. Now it will add repairing storm-damaged homes to its to-do list.

"It's going to take some work and money, but hopefully we can do it," Garcia said.

On Saturday, piles of tree limbs collected on curbs as residents and volunteers removed debris from yards and cut up large trees that fell on houses. As the growing piles began to spill into the streets, some residents expressed dissatisfaction with how the county handled the cleanup.

"We feel great about the support of the community but feel the county should have showed up to help," said Tony Williams, who was removing tree limbs from a neighbor's roof Saturday.

County officials said they were working as quickly as possible.

"Right now we are making sure that we are clearing the roads and rights of way," said Willie Puz, a spokesman for Hills­borough County. "It may take a few days to get everywhere."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2442.

Power restored to most customers Saturday as cleanup continues 04/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 9:00pm]
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