Tropical Storm Debby left a calling card that Dave Parker would just as soon never see again.
As commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 67 west of Brooksville, Parker looked over the empty hall that's normally abuzz with activity and shook his head.
"This is terrible. Here we sit, and no one can get here," Parker said late last week. "And the worst thing is, there's no end in sight."
For an organization already strapped with financial struggles, the foot and a half of rain that Tropical Storm Debby dumped on Hernando County two weeks ago has only added to the woes. Much of the hall's half-acre parking lot still sits underwater. Portions of Nancy Avenue, where the hall entrance is located, remain flooded.
As a result of the flooding, the hall has had to curtail its veterans assistance program and cancel its thrice-weekly bingo games. And that, said Parker, means the loss of an estimated $2,500 in revenue each week.
Parker is also concerned about long-term damage. The standing water appears to have contributed to the formation of a small sinkhole in the parking lot and cracks in the building's floor, which could cause thousands of dollars' worth of damage.
"It's devastating to us," Parker said. "We're a lean organization, and we just don't have the resources to deal with this kind of thing."
Since the storm, Parker and vice commander Steve Grecco said, they have had little response from governmental agencies in fixing the problem. A state Department of Transportation engineer visited the site last week, but hasn't been back. Calls to the county have gone unanswered, said Grecco.
"It's like no one wants to get involved in this," Grecco said. "We're at a point where we've run out of ideas."
The DAV hall is no stranger to flooding. In fact, a response from DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson on Thursday noted a history of flooding in the parking area dating back to when the building was completed in 1970.
According to the DOT, the area where the parking lot is located is within and adjacent to the lowest point in a 125-acre drainage basin that is fed primarily by a 30-inch drainage pipe beneath State Road 50. Expansion of the paved parking area over the years created additional flooding problems because the asphalt surface prevents runoff from draining sufficiently.
Parker, however, says that although the parking lot has had some minor flooding issues in the past, the situation has gotten significantly worse since the DOT recently installed a sidewalk along the roadway.
"It seems that every time we get a heavy rain, we're underwater," Parker said. "It was never anywhere near that bad before."
Gloria Kowa, who lives directly across from the hall on Nancy Avenue, agreed. She and her neighbors believe that construction along SR 50 has altered drainage routes. Her home was surrounded by standing water for more than a week after Debby.
"Our bedroom is still drying out from the water that came in," said Kowa, who added that a utility shed holding some of her belongings had water up to the doorknob.
Assistant county utilities director Jesse Goodwin said he believes that the flooding problem on Nancy Avenue could be cleared up using a pump attached to an on-site sewer lift station and fed to the county's pressurized sewer system.
But getting rid of the water would take at least several days, he said. And since the majority of the flooding is on private property, Goodwin said Friday he had pitched his plan to County Administrator Len Sossamon for approval.
Meanwhile, Parker said he hopes that a more permanent solution can be found that will ease the DAV's flooding issues.
"If something isn't done about it, it's only going to get worse," the veterans commander said. "And we can't certainly can't afford much more of this."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]