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Day after brings cleanup, curious

Life returned to normal rather quickly Sunday for tornado-struck residents in northeastern Spring Hill.

Gone was the logjam of cars along Mariner Boulevard, backed up by debris, emergency vehicles and malfunctioning traffic lights. Gone was the steady rain that lasted two days. And gone, mostly, was the gray backdrop of clouds that persisted throughout the weekend.

Instead, residents began the arduous task of removing rubble and repairing their damaged homes, screened porches and sheds.

Insurance claims adjusters were on select sites, assessing the damage. Lawn crews, tree-trimming companies and unemployed construction workers enjoyed capitalism by lending their services _ for a price. Curious others rubbernecked at the wreckage, taking pictures and video footage for memorabilia.

"It's embarrassing," said 34-year-old Mark Yamasaki, referring to the dozens of cars that slowly rolled past his Tiffin Avenue home throughout the morning. "I want to take down some of this stuff so it doesn't look so bad."

Yamasaki, who shares the home with his mother, Roseanne, lost most of his screen-enclosed porch, as well as parts of his roofing. His home, and a handful of others near Tiffin, were the first to be struck by the tornado, which first touched down about noon.

John Davis, who lives a few blocks away on Colchester Avenue, had his hands full cleaning. Early Sunday, his insurance company and several contractors were inspecting and repairing his two-bedroom home's structural damage, which resulted in the collapse of his bedroom ceiling.

Strewn about the small, pink room were pounds of brown insulation and white plasterboard.

Although his family had to spend the night in a nearby relative's house, which was also damaged in the tornado, Davis was glad no one was injured.

He, too, was annoyed at the gawking spectators and enterprising handymen who tried to ply their trades to distressed homeowners.

"It gets annoying," said Davis, 29. "There's so many. It's all day long."

Based on the path of damaged homes left in the tornado's wake, it appears that the twister touched down first near Yamasaki's home, on Tiffin at the northeast end of Mariner Boulevard. It blew sharply northeast, past Mariner, through Roble Avenue and past Davis' home on Colchester. It then blew through Deerfield Avenue and north through Lamont Drive and Pillar Avenue.

After a few minutes, the twister ended some 2 miles later near the High Point subdivision on State Road 50.

In all, more than two dozen homes were damaged, as were several other buildings, including St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, Spring Hill Fire and Rescue's Station No. 4, Evergreen Woods Retirement Center, the Hernando Community Blood Bank and Gateway Furniture.

Officials with the Northwest Hernando County Fire Protection District, who handled the wreckage near State Road 50, estimated more than $30,000 in damage just from the retirement center, blood bank and furniture store.

The blood bank, they said, was heaviest hit, with about $20,000 in roof and water damage. Built in April 1991, the facility cost $650,000.

Damage estimates for the church, fire station and homes in the Mariner Boulevard area were not available.

Church services are being held at regular times at Springstead High School until the damage is fixed.

Firefighters boarded up one bay door that was damaged beyond repair after being blown off. Another door, also blown off, was not damaged as badly and was replaced. The fire station is again operating normally.

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