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Hernando County avoids worst storms

BROOKSVILLE — The line of severe storms that began moving just after sunrise Thursday blew quickly through Hernando County but didn't pack the punch that many feared they would.

"Compared to what some of the counties south of us had, I'd say we were pretty lucky," said Cecilia Patella, Hernando's Emergency Management director.

Patella said that her agency received two calls about trees falling onto houses, but damage seemed to be minor. There were no reports of injuries from the storms.

Although the county spent much of the day under a tornado watch that was elevated to a warning at one point, no tornadoes were reported. The highest wind gusts — 46 miles per hour — reported at Hernando County Airport came around 10 a.m. according to Jennifer Colson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

The high winds tore off limbs and knocked down several trees resulting in blocked roads and sporadic power outages throughout the day.

Withlachoochee River Electric Cooperative spokesman David Lambert said crews "stayed pretty busy" dealing with more than 2,000 outages that were reported.

Rain was perhaps the biggest threat. Colson said the area got about 2.10 inches of rain between midnight Wednesday and 4 p.m. Thursday, which caused flooding in lower lying areas as the ground began to saturate.

Runoff from Wiscon Road poured through the Humane Society of the Nature Coast facility and threatened to flood a shed where hundreds of pounds of dry dog food was stored. Agency director Joanne Schoch said she was forced to find a portable sump pump to clear out the water.

"If that dog food had gotten wet, it would have been completely ruined," Schoch said.

The weather affected everything from traffic to school activities. Hernando school officials decided by midmorning to cancel all after-school activities, and transportation director Linda Smith said some school buses were late as drivers slowed to navigate through flooded roads and downed trees.

That's the way it should be, though, Smith said.

"I don't want you on time in this kind of weather," Smith said she tells drivers. "I want you to slow down and be cautious."

Chocachatti Elementary, Nature Coast High School and Powell Middle School had to get by on reduced power for a couple of hours Thursday morning because of a Progress Energy outage.

Challenger K-8 in Spring Hill made do with a backup generator and emergency lighting for about an hour.

The county Public Works Department reported only one road closure as a result of flooding. Parsons Road in northwestern Hernando off of U.S. 98 and Brittle Road was closed Thursday evening.

The road provides access to about five families, and a detour was set up.

Patella said the powerful storm provided a good reminder to residents that the area is prone to such weather events. It also served as a good trial run as the county heads toward hurricane season.

"It showed us that our residents are staying aware and will be ready if and when we have a real big storm," Patella said.

Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

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Hernando County avoids worst storms 03/31/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 31, 2011 8:03pm]
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