Saturday, May 26, 2018
Public safety

Tropical Storm Debby's floodwater submerges parts of Pinellas

The Ponds of Tarpon Woods lived up to its name this week.

Tropical Storm Debby pushed floodwater in and around the parking lot of the East Lake condominium complex, submerging its front lawn and attracting flocks of birds.

Several of the Tarpon Woods subdivision's ponds and its creek overflowed Sunday. Though Tarpon Woods is notorious for flooding, this week's deluge left some residents in awe.

"I've been here 10 years," said Katy Michels, 60, who lives on Tarpon Woods Boulevard, which was flooded. "There's never been anything like this."

Flooding also reached the adjacent golf course, submerging large portions of the 18th hole. Michels said kayakers had taken to the fairway Monday morning.

Tarpon Woods was among many areas of North Pinellas still under water Tuesday. While Tropical Storm Debby was weakening as it crossed North Florida, a stiff southwest wind and continuing high tides pushed more water into already water-logged communities, or flooded areas that had not experienced high water earlier.

• • •

In Palm Harbor on Tuesday, 71-year-old Nancy Sanderson remained stuck in her Wedgewood condominium near County Road 95. The area looked like a swamp, with deep water covering streets, sidewalks and parking lots. Cars parked in those lots have been immobile since Sunday, when the floodwater overran the banks of a large pond.

There was heavy flooding of the main roads in the area, including County Road 95 and Bilgore Grove Boulevard, both outlets to U.S. 19 used by local residents.

"I can't get out," Sanderson said. "My big adventure is going out to the mailbox."

Mark Nelson, Wedgewood's maintenance supervisor, said his team had been working on roof leaks. He said the complex's water pump was under water itself, so the water covering the streets couldn't be pumped into another nearby lake until at least Friday.

Resident Nick Balow, 43, wasn't surprised the large pond overflowed, because a storm created the same problem about three years ago, he said. However, this time the water was close to his condo, which made him nervous.

From his condominium on Tuesday, Balow could see a nearly submerged purple Volkswagen Beetle surrounded by water.

Not everyone was disturbed by the flooding in the County Road 95 area south of Tampa Road and east of U.S. 19.

Two teenage boys went fishing Tuesday in what should have been a street. Near their fishing spot was a flooded yellow Mustang. Joseph Miller, 17, peeked inside the flooded car.

"(Bass) like to hide up in the shallows," said Kyle Gostafson, 16. "This gives us something to do."

Gostafson said he also went skim boarding in the floodwater on Monday.

Wedgewood residents who had a dry car to drive were forced to detour onto West Lake Road and then Tampa Road to reach U.S. 19, traveling through the Hidden Grove subdivision.

Danielle Dohner, 16, who lives in Hidden Grove, said the detour is annoying, especially since her family's home is close to County Road 95. "We have to go all the way around," she said.

Her father, Don, 49, said they have lived in their home since 1991 and never saw such flooding there.

Robert Mutimer's driveway was blocked by high water in a County Road 95 intersection Tuesday. Mutimer, 73, got permission to drive through his neighbor's lawn to avoid it.

"We can at least get out," he said. "I've seen that (intersection) fill up and go the next day, but I've never seen it go this high."

A handful of drivers tried to venture through the deep water, but their cars flooded. Several people stopped by Tuesday to take photos of the flooded area or to play in the water, skim boarding and swimming. One person even posed for a photo on a car stranded in the middle of the flooded road.

• • •

Dunedin, though situated along the Intracoastal Waterway, weathered Tropical Storm Debby's battering fairly well, according to city officials.

On Tuesday, yellow diamond-shaped "High Water" signs greeted visitors to the Baywood Shores and Harbor View Villas subdivisions, both off Alt. U.S. 19, but about all that was left were muddy puddles, small branches and other debris.

City officials said Debby lapped sand and water onto roads and properties primarily along the waterfront west of Alt. U.S. 19 — a stretch of road notorious for flooding. Among the hardest hit was the southern portion of Edgewater Drive, which was temporarily closed between President and Union streets.

Public Works director Doug Hutchens said an embankment collapse slowed water drainage from Tookes Lakes, located off Virginia Street near the fire station.

The yards of homes near Cedar and Curlew creeks took on water, he said, and a seawall collapsed behind a home in Harbor View Villas, where residents store small boats in the channel behind their houses off Palm Boulevard.

The city had to call in roofers to permanently repair leaks at four city buildings: the Englebert complex (where the Blue Jays practice), the Martin Luther King Jr. recreation center (leak inside the gymnasium), Dunedin Public Library (leak inside the front lobby) and the Dunedin Community Center.

"Everything is cleaned up. And as long as Mother Nature keeps the heavy rain away from us, we're good so far," said Keith Fogarty, director of public services.

Fogarty said the four small leaks at the 5-year-old community center were minor and didn't affect programming.

"Roof systems, like drainage systems, are designed for a certain amount of rain. We estimate we had almost 12 inches of rain on Sunday," Fogarty said, adding that the leaks formed on a flat portion of the roof. "Is it disappointing? Yes. But to say it's totally uncommon? No, not for this much rain."

Cricketers British Pub & Restaurant waiter and bartender Pauline Hageanon said the parking lot of the Causeway Plaza shopping center on Alt. U.S. 19 in Dunedin was covered by at least 3 feet of water.

"It was completely underwater. It was like a swimming pool," she said, adding that customers and employees witnessed two teens swimming across the parking lot.

Mona Jazzar, who owns the Subway in the center, said she lost business because she closed early three days in a row. She made one-tenth of her usual profit on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

"No one could come out," she said.

Though there were inconveniences for many Dunedin residents because of high water, Hutchens of Public Works and City Commissioner Julie Scales said they heard positive comments from southside Dunedin residents and those living in the Dunedin Isles Country Club subdivision. Both neighborhoods are beneficiaries of recent multimillion-dollar road and stormwater pipe improvement projects.

"So we're seeing some effectiveness from the projects that we've been implementing," Hutchens said. "It would have been a nightmare had those pipes not been installed."

Andy Thomason can be reached at (727) 444-4155 or [email protected]

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