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Painful to recall, too painful to repeat

Note to readers: The Pasco Times is publishing stories this week about the "no-name storm" and how it changed the lives of residents. The series will run through Sunday, the first anniversary of the storm.

Gail Stevens looks out at the canal near her Clark Street home. The tide is already higher than she would prefer, and it seems to rise with each passing moment.

It reminds her of a time she would rather forget: March 13, 1993, the day the "no-name storm" blew into her life and changed it forever. She said she doesn't like to think about what she would do if it happened again.

"I don't think I could go through that again," she said. "It did something to us. It scared us to death. It . . . turned our paradise into a nightmare."

Mrs. Stevens' husband, Willard, owns a construction company in their hometown in Massachusetts. For nine years, they would come to Pasco County to spend the winter. From January to April, the house on Hudson Beach was "our little haven," Mrs. Stevens said, "and a home away from home."

In all that time though, she said they had never experienced anything as swift and terrible as that early Saturday morning in March.

"It happened so fast that we didn't realize the absolute danger that we were in," she said. Others, including their 4-year-old granddaughter, were staying at the house.

"Within 10 minutes, we were walking in knee-deep water," she said. "We never even realized how severe this was going to be."

Her neighbors were no more prepared than she was. "This was 4:30 in the morning and people were sound asleep," she said. "My son picked up one lady who was carrying her insulin in her arms."

Mrs. Stevens credits the American Red Cross with helping her family through the disaster. "We lived in a shelter for three days," she said. "They took us in and took care of us. I was overwhelmed with the things they offer you, no questions asked. They didn't make you feel like less than you felt already."

When they finally were able to get back home, everything they had was damaged or destroyed. "I found furniture from one part of the house floating in another," she said. "I was just thankful that we all got out of there okay. Material things can be replaced."

That doesn't mean they have had an easy task. "I kid my children back home and I tell them we have French Provincial lawn furniture," she joked. "I look around my neighborhood now and see homes that still haven't been fixed. It's not quite back to normal yet. It's going to take a while to get back to where we were."

What her family seems to be having trouble getting back most is their peace of mind.

"It was something you don't forget in a long time," she said. "It was hard on everybody. Even my little granddaughter (in Massachusetts) has been affected. . . . She went hysterical because she heard about the possibility of floods due to snow."

"There's a lot of emotion that still hangs there," she continued. "Hopefully, it was something that will never happen again."

But if it did?

"Definitely a "for sale' sign," she said, laughing. "(The house) probably wouldn't be worth the powder to blow it up at that point."

A serious tone touches her voice.

"It definitely was too scary, being here and witnessing it like that.

"It was too extremely emotional to ever think about going through it again."