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Storm swamps homes

A violent thunderstorm smacked the Pasco County coast at high tide Saturday night, throwing up a storm surge that swamped homes with knee-deep water.

Cleanup began Sunday as soggy mattresses, wheelbarrows full of brush and mud-soaked carpeting were stacked curbside throughout low-lying neighborhoods in Port Richey and New Port Richey.

The storm, which hit the coast between 10:30 and 11 p.m. Saturday, surprised many residents. Some weren't aware of the storm's severity until the water was already in their living rooms.

"Everything was rushing down the street in the water. It was just like a river," said Mary Kay Wilborn of Deep Lagoon Mobile Home Park, whose wicker patio furniture bore the water stains of Saturday's flooding. "Everybody's hosing down today."

The main road leading to Wilborn's neighborhood, Green Key Road, was closed when gulf waters swallowed part of the asphalt causeway leading to Robert Rees Memorial Park and Beach.

Cleanup workers at the park could attest to the nastiness of the weather. The storm surge picked up a 700-pound section of wooden playground equipment, moving it several hundred feet.

"We haven't had it this bad since a storm last March," said Dave Dupuis of the county parks department, as he shoveled sand from a picnic shelter.

Some of the worst-hit neighborhoods were near the mouth of the Pithlachascotee River in Port Richey.

Jeff Nichols, who lives on Deedra Court, about a quarter mile south of the river mouth, watched the saltwater stream across his property on its way inland.

Based on water marks that stained his and other foundations, the surge reached nearly 3 feet. Nichols said his area hadn't been so badly hit since an October storm two years ago.

"It came up fast, and in an hour it was gone," he said. "I lost everything. My furniture's trashed."

Carrie Poulsen, who lives at the corner of Bay Boulevard and Old Post Road, was indoors with her family when a neighbor started honking his horn and screaming, "You gotta get out."

By the time Poulsen could gather up her three kids and a few belongings, water was lapping the door of her house. The family spent the night at a friend's house. "It was crazy," Poulsen said. "There was no warning at all."

But many people took the storm in stride. They chuckled about the boat left stranded on a person's lawn and the woman who dropped her purse in the floodwater Saturday and found it Sunday several blocks away.

Wilborn, the woman whose mobile home was drenched, wasn't about to let the weather spoil the New Year's weekend.

"We all waded through the water from our homes and had a party," she said. "There wasn't much else we could do."