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Residents regroup, clean up mess

The two men couldn't be any more different.

One of them, Herb Oppel, has lived in Indian Rocks Beach for 17 years. The other man, Ryan Pinner, moved there two months ago and was just beginning to put down roots in the community.

Oppel is 87 years old. Pinner has a baby face that belies his 23 years.

But the day after a tornado ripped through the area, causing severe damage to their homes, these two men, like many, shared one common goal: to rebuild.

"I've been living for 87 years, and I'm going to continue to live if they get this place replaced or not," Oppel said as a team of reconstruction contractors wearing jackets emblazoned with "Catastrophe Team" inspected the damage to his home on La Hacienda Drive.

"I'm not going to let this ruin (my feelings about Florida)," said Pinner, a native of Pennsylvania who moved to a small home on Gulf Boulevard after being drawn by the sand and waves of the beach.

Pinner said he was preparing to take a shower Monday morning when the powerful storm blew the roof off the apartment he shares with a friend.

His stereo, television, couch and bed had extensive water damage. Neighbors helped him move his clothes and other items into their homes.

Like many who suffered significant damage, Oppel and Pinner woke early Tuesday to the arduous task of cleaning up their homes.

"It was raining yesterday, so there wasn't a whole lot we could do except get sick," said Robert Sellner, whose home on Beverly Avenue in Largo was declared uninhabitable by city officials.

The tornado uprooted a tree that crashed into his home, destroying part of his roof.

The family's television, VCR, stereo system and a painting done by Sellner's wife, Janice, had serious damage.

For the Sellners, there was no time to lament the losses.

"You stop, and you never get it done," Mrs. Sellner said. "It's got to be done."

The tools most used for the cleanup included mops, brooms, wheelbarrows and chain saws. Others were armed with cameras to take pictures to send to their insurance companies.

Most were resigned to the job. Some showed a remarkable sense of humor.

"Now I have a sky roof," Pinner said.

Others simply bailed out.

"Well it was fun," read the note one family left next to the front door of an Indian Rocks Beach apartment they had used for nearly two years.

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