Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Defiance, discretion and demand for tacos

Two hours after sunrise Sunday, there was little traffic on U.S. 19. But a steady stream of cars crept through the drive-through line at the Homosassa Hardee's.

On the other side of the county, people climbed out of a pickup at Inverness Middle School, trying to dodge the heavy rain as they lugged their things into the school-turned-shelter.

And at the BP station on U.S. 41 N, maybe the only store open in that area, a sheriff's employee ducked in to get a morning cup of coffee.

So it went on Sunday. Pretty much the only people out and about were those who had to be because of their jobs, because they needed some hot food, or because they were trying to ensure the safety of themselves, their families and their property. It seemed like most Citrus residents hunkered down, monitored news reports and wondered what kind of damage Jeanne would leave in its wake.

At the office and gift shop for MacRae's of Homosassa, office manager Wendy Moreland was startled by a frog that leaped onto her, escaping the beginnings of a driving rain outside.

"Where did it go? Where did it go?" she asked, jumping away from the front door of the resort office.

She and Susie Turvaville, who also works at the office and the Tiki Hut at MacRae's, were watching the rain bands blow through the area. About half of the resort's 22 rooms were filled. People gathered in rocking chairs on the porch, watching the wind and rain from under cover.

Moreland said that nearly all of those guests lived in nearby mobile homes but felt safer at the resort.

"We never leave (Homosassa) until it gets bad," Turvaville said. Bad, by her definition, were winds stronger than 80 mph.

Turvaville said she was pleased to have eaten a hot meal Saturday night. "We figure the electricity will go out," she said. Her morning prediction came true, as thousands of Citrus residences and businesses lost power as Jeanne got stronger during the day.

Frances brought water up to the grass beside the gift shop and office. She figured this storm won't have the same effect. "Everyone's staying here," Turvaville said. "All that water will be going out" when the storm hits.

Out in the parking lot, Greg Lyles rode his bicycle leisurely. But this was a practical trip, not just a defiant, darn-the-storm jaunt: His home bathroom had become inoperable, and Lyles was visiting MacRae's to use a Port-O-Let.

"I haven't run from any one of these things yet," said Lyles, who said he has ridden out storms for nearly 50 years. "I get out and play in them. I'm not afraid."

Lyles, a diesel mechanic for Homosassa Seafood, said he really was out looking for a place to find coffee, but he hadn't had much luck up until that point. He judged that the storm was moving west as he watched the clouds race by.

At the Cedar Key Fish & Oyster Company, Dana Smith donned a bright yellow and orange raincoat as he lashed down his two boats. When he heard the storm was following a more western track, he got worried. That meant that Jeanne would be heading out in the gulf near to Citrus County's shoreline.

Smith, a stone crabber for 20 years, said his boats did fine in Frances but "it (battling the weather) is getting old."

He wasn't sure what all these storms will do to his business. While some bad weather might improve the harvest, "hurricanes don't do anyone any good," he said.

Taco Bell on U.S. 19 in Crystal River opened at 11:30 a.m. Sunday and appeared to be the only restaurant doing business in the early afternoon. The store had served 50 customers by 2:30 p.m., and didn't plan to close until forced. The staff reported that most orders were larger than average, including one request for 80 tacos.

At the Cedars Lake Mobile Home and RV Park on Mason Creek Road, owners Albert and Pat Fugett were starting to pack their car to leave Sunday morning. They were hoping there would be Sunday services at their House of Power Church in Holder. Regardless, that is where they would go for shelter if they decided the storm was too dangerous. That's where they rode out Frances.

Fugett was watching the Weather Channel while his wife was getting ready to go. Still, she said she knew some park residents weren't evacuating. In fact, during Frances, she turned off the water to the park but a couple of residents who decided to stay behind turned it back on.

Mrs. Fugett didn't want to take any more chances. Before Frances, she had put up 52 ears of sweet corn. But when she lost power, she lost that and everything else in three freezers. Now she has only enough food to fit in the cooler the couple can transport if they evacuate. Earlier Sunday morning, the Fugetts had lost power for about 30 minutes. But it returned, much to her relief.

She also had stored porcelain dolls to be sure they were spared any flood water. But Mrs. Fugett also felt bad about all the work her husband had done over the past three weeks to clean up from Frances. The piles had not yet been picked up and winds were already beginning to scatter them again.

"I was just hoping that all this stuff we cleared up over the last three weeks was gone by now," Mrs. Fugett said. "But they have not touched it."

Times staff writer Justin George contributed to this report.

HOMOSASSA: Greg Lyles, of Homosassa, defies storm winds Sunday morning as he pauses during his bike ride through the streets of Old Homosassa. "Everybody done took off, they got scared," Lyles said as he stopped near MacRae's. "I haven't run from any one of these things yet. I get out and play in them. I'm not afraid."

HOMOSASSA: Stone crabber Dana Smith lashes down his boat, the Destiny, at the docks by the Cedar Key Fish & Oyster Company. "We've never really had a hurricane hit Homosassa before, so I don't really know what to expect."

Citrus County sheriff's Sgt. Tim Martin speaks to motorists at a road block near the corner of Halls River Road and Fishbowl Drive in Homosassa on Sunday morning. The county ordered the evacuation of coastal residents Saturday in anticipation of flooding.