Saturday, August 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

Pasco: The remnants of Hurricane Irma

Schools

Hurricane Irma means six days off from classes for Pasco public school students.

Twenty-one schools were converted to shelters and housed 18,842 evacuees, many bringing along pets. On Monday, five high schools remained open as temporary shelters to aid people who may have returned to homes without electricity.

Superintendent Kurt Browning, who toured schools in east Pasco, said he decided to let parents know early that classes won't resume until Monday, Sept. 18. That will give the staff a chance to clean up the schools used as shelters.

"The classrooms have been torn apart," Browning said.

He said he also wanted to make sure teachers had a chance to get their families, and then their classrooms, in order before students return.

No decision has been made on makeup days, though it could mean losing some of Thanksgiving vacation, Browning said, depending on whether the state will waive some of the required instructional hours.

The School Board will have to decide on the schedule at some point. The board postponed its Tuesday meeting, including final adoption of a budget, to a future date.

Public safety

Irma's breath knocked down trees and power lines, peeled back roofs and made traveling problematic, but the fading storm's legacy in Pasco County could be wet and unknown until later this week.

An evacuation was ordered Monday afternoon for residents near the Anclote River in Elfers. Problems also are expected on the Withlacoochee River in Trilby and Cypress Creek at Worthington Gardens.

It was a familiar warning to residents in low-lying areas.

"There is going to be a flood here; you have to get out now,'' said Kevin Guthrie. Pasco's assistant county administrator for public safety.

The possibility of rising water is nothing new to the residents in Anclote River Estates, which has flooded each of the previous two summers.

"Yeah, we kind of already figured it would happen,'' said Luisa Capra, 22, of Creek Drive. "It happens every time it rains.''

The Anclote was right at flood stage of 20 feet Monday afternoon and is forecast to rise to nearly 26.5 feet by Tuesday night. The Withlacoochee River "may go into major flood stage on Friday,'' Guthrie said.

Roads

Downed trees, power lines and standing water closed portions of 51 roads across Pasco County, including heavily traveled State Road 52 in Land O'Lakes. Reports from county government also showed 106 streets were partially obstructed, allowing limited access to motorists. Lincoln Avenue in Zephyrhills closed after a small sinkhole opened.

Utilities

The state said 37 percent of Pasco County, or 100,653 customers, was without power after Irma's departure. That made Monday a race against time for people like Michael Ottaway. He is the owner Ottaway's Parkside Ice Cream Parlor in downtown New Port Richey. There was no damage to his building, but he faced the loss of his inventory.

Ottaway, 40 worked up a sweat trucking 50 5-gallon tubs of ice cream from his shop three blocks over to the walk-in freezer at Christina's Restaurant with the help of a customer-turned-friend, Regan Weiss.

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