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Snippets of drama swept in by storm

From sunrise to sunset and beyond, wind and rain reigned as Jeanne passed through Pasco County. Fallen trees and power lines were common from Zephyrhills and Dade City in the east to New Port Richey and Hudson Beach in the west.

Some people chose to evacuate to shelter ahead of the powerful storm, while others chose to ride it out at home.

Here are snapshots of what happened Sunday in Pasco County.

Community Hospital,

New Port Richey

Downed trees and damaged roofs once again plagued Community Hospital on Sunday as Jeanne pushed through.

One of the hospital's oldest and largest trees, a 30- to 40-foot live oak by the main entrance, "just tipped over," said Community spokeswoman Mary Sommise. "It's blocking one of the main roads in."

And the temporary roof repair that was done after Frances hit did not hold up for Jeanne. For the second time in three weeks, a portion of the hospitals' third story roof was damaged _ leaking water into 36 rooms and forcing the evacuation of 30 patients to other parts of the building.

Hospital CEO Ernie Meier estimated in early September permanent repairs to fix the ripped roof could cost about $250,000.

Dade City

Dade City residents were among the first to lose their electricity in the storm, and once again the city's grand old oaks proved no match for hurricane-force winds.

For some time, Meridian Avenue was impassable from fallen tree limbs. City crews worked through the height of the storm with a backhoe and chain saws to remove the trees and limbs to clear the road, according to the city's director of Safety Services Joey Wubbena. One house along Meridian sustained major damage after a tree fell on it, and another tree fell on parked vehicles at a nearby home.

The city had reports of at least five houses sustaining major damage from falling trees. The city worked to evacuate residents in an area that flooded near 10th Street and Whitehouse Avenue.

Port Richey

John Stamos was just settling in for the storm when his good luck gave out.

"I've been here for 12 years," he said. "I've been bragging to my friends for years that we must have favorable currents here 'cause we never got hit bad."

Then on Sunday a tree fell on his house. A big one.

"I'm sitting down at the table getting all my insurance information and it just fell down at 1 o'clock. It knocked my air conditioner out of whack so I shut it down.

There were no leaks by 5:20 p.m. but the 50-foot behemoth resting on his red-tile roof drew neighbors out of their homes as soon as it crashed down. Stamos sent them all away. He was fine. No bumps or bruises. His daughter, who lives with him at the Choice Drive house, was already at work at a local hospital when the weakened tree dropped over a bedroom, bathroom and part of the pool.

"I'm no meteorologist or anything," said Stamos. But after the earlier storms, this time "the winds, that's what I think got it."

And on Sunday, there wasn't much to do but let the tree stay there, he said.

"If I was Hercules or Atlas or one of those Greek gods who held up the world I could do something, but I'm not," he said, waving a cigar in one hand and brushing at his grey hair with the other.

The fallen tree was a surprise, but then again, "they said it was going to be a storm so what do you expect," Stamos said.

Interstate 75,

Wesley Chapel

As winds subsided about 1:30 p.m. a crowd clutching plastic foam cups of Smart Roast coffee and cigarettes formed outside the Holiday Inn Express west of Interstate 75 in Wesley Chapel.

Pat Walker and her family had been on an errand of mercy to victims of Hurricane Charley in Port Charlotte when her caravan got sideswiped by Jeanne.

The Lenoir City, Tenn., natives holed up at the hotel until the storm blew over.

When Walker and company tried to bring the school supplies to Port Charlotte three weeks ago, Hurricane Frances canceled that trip. They accomplished their mission Saturday.

Then Jeanne, which was supposed to miss the Tampa Bay area, took a westerly course.

"It came right over here to greet us," said Walker, wearing an orange University of Tennessee Volunteers T-shirt. "It's a blessing to help people but I'm not sure this storm is a blessing."

Debbie Leonhardt viewed Jeanne as a curse. For the Palm Bay resident it was her second hurricane evacuation this month.

She took shelter from Frances in New York. For Jeanne she fled to what she thought was the safe side of the state.

No such luck.

"We didn't know it was coming this way," Leonhardt said under the canopy outside the hotel. "We're driving back home to check the damage tomorrow."

Sea Ranch, Hudson

"This is why I decided to rent before buying," Bob Durran, 41, said as he surveyed the damage outside his home on Stacey Drive at 4:30 p.m.

At about noon, he heard a loud crash and the crush of metal. The carport was ripped from its concrete foundation and torn from the house, exposing the garage. The carport came to rest after wrapping around a palm tree.

"This place is trashed," Durran said, wind still swirling around him.

Some of his neighbors were equally unlucky, losing carports, pool screens, mail boxes. At one house, a wide garage door was blown in.

Wesley Chapel

High School,

Curley Road

Kelli Greene stood just outside the side door of the evacuation center at Wesley Chapel High School on Sunday morning and shook her head at the sheer violence of the wind thrashing the trees across the street.

"We rode it out in Frances, and the wind almost lifted our roof," she said. She and her husband were ready to ride out Jeanne as well. But at about 2 a.m. Sunday, the television reports got to them.

"It was already windy outside, and they said it was going to get worse," said Greene, who lives in an area off Pasco Road that is considered a part of Zephyrhills. "We were worried sick."

By 2:30 a.m. they had taken refuge at Wesley Chapel High.

The evacuation center took in about 173 people by Sunday morning, and most of them arrived the night before or the early morning. Because of either hurricane fatigue or earlier reports that had Jeanne missing the Tampa Bay area, many evacuees waited to leave their homes and seek shelter.

Once Greene got to the shelter, she discovered she was not exactly an old pro in the art of evacuation.

"We had no idea we had to bring cots and mattresses," she said ruefully. "We just brought sleeping bags."

Don and Cheryl Tipple are getting to be experts at this sort of thing.

On Saturday evening they showed up, claimed a choice spot, inflated their Coleman mattress and set up their lawn chair. It was their third visit to the Wesley Chapel High shelter.

"We're getting pretty good at this," Cheryl Tipple said.

"We didn't even unpack everything from last time," said Don Tipple. "I just put some ice in there, and we were ready to go."

Some evacuees may have had trouble getting to the Wesley Chapel High shelter after a large oak blocked Curley Road.

For much of the early morning, the tree on the west side of Curley Road was leaning precariously over the road. The roots structure has been immersed in water for some time, and Sunday morning's heavy winds caused the tree to tilt. About 9 a.m. cars were forced to swerve around it.

Finally at 9:20 a.m. the winds took the tree down. It fell slowly and with little drama, barely making a sound. But the result was that Curley Road was completely blocked between State Road 54 and Rotella Drive.

Schrader Elementary,

New Port Richey

Joe Klobertanz, 36, pulled an armful of pillows out of the car and darted through whipping rains to a second-floor classroom.

It was 8:30 a.m. and already Klobertanz had been awake for three hours. He'd slept in front of the television news, hoping that this time he would not need to scoop up his family, pack up his car and take shelter in a place that isn't home.

It was the third time in six weeks they had evacuated because of a storm.

"The wind, it was very hard blowing," 3{-year-old Jake Klobertanz said as he rolled around on the pallet of blankets his mother, Kim, laid out for him.

The first time the family left their Hudson mobile home for a shelter _ during Hurricane Charley _ they packed 10 to 15 suitcases. This time, they were down to just four.

"Practice makes perfect," said the 33-year-old Kim with a shrug.

Before the weather became an unrelenting threat, the Klobertanzes were considering moving into another, larger mobile home. That's out of the question now. They want a firmer foundation.

"Definitely a block house," Joe said.

At 8:45 a.m., Red Cross volunteer Rosemary Phillips made the rounds through the school to notify evacuees that the shelter was now in lock-down.

You can't go out when the winds are this high, she told them: "It's a good time to quit smoking."

Two-hundred-forty-seven people had checked into the shelter before 9 a.m. About 70 had arrived after 10 p.m. Saturday. But the arrivals were picking up as the morning hours brought light _ just in time for oatmeal, Raisin Bran, blueberry muffins, grape juice and coffee. And just in time for the winds to get really bad.

By now, this shelter business is old hat.

"I find everyone so patient," a surprised sounding evacuee, Brian McLaughlen, stopped to tell Phillips. McLaughlen had been vacationing in Hudson from Great Britain when he decided to take cover from a mobile home.

"We've learned it," Phillips said without a beat. "We've done it four times now."


Twelve-year-old Austin Aubuchon, 12, was supposed to spend Sunday at a softball tournament in Orlando. Until Jeanne sent his team home.

So instead of competing on the field, Aubuchon found himself slugging through the rain in his Iverrary neighborhood to walk the family dog, Taffy, before the worst of the weather arrived.

"It's okay, I like doing it," he said of the humdrum-turned-hazardous chore.

Inside the family's house, his dad, William, was getting ready to head into work at Community Hospital of New Port Richey, where he is an anesthesiologist. Austin's mother, Leslie, was preparing to break out the candles again in anticipation of another round of "downed power lines and closed stores."

After eight years in Trinity and four hurricanes this summer, the family has made their peace with the weather.

"No matter where you live you have to contend with something, some freak of nature," said Leslie Aubuchon, who homeschools two of the couple's three children. "This is ours," she said of the storms.

Hudson Beach

This was not what Aaron and Virginia Finkle had planned.

With rain pounding their carport and winds threatening, they pulled their paddle boat from their backyard canal, shuffled law furniture into the shed and braced to break the news to their sleeping 8-year-old that her birthday party would be spoiled.

Jeanne was coming instead.

Two dogs, two kids, two cats, two birds and two adults would weather this hurricane without many preparations, but they had cake. When the Finkles moved to Florida from New York in July and bought Hudson Antiques & Collectibles, they were sure they were leaving weather behind.

"I'd take a snow storm over this," Aaron said. "You can shovel snow _ you can't shovel water out of a canal."

A month ago, the family boarded their Clarke Street house for Hurricane Charley. Now, the plywood is piled in bundle in the rafters of his carport.

"We're at the point right now where we don't even care," he said.

Beacon Woods

Travis Gardner saw the roots flexing hours before the tree in his front yard collapsed. The thick veins throbbed and pulled. He caught the changes on his video camera. Hours later, while he was watching TV, he heard one loud snap.

Now, there are six deep muddy trenches where roots used to be. Fat orange roots tower about 30 feet over his Cobble Stone Drive home. Limbs stretch clear across the street into his neighbor's yard.

The 20-year-old tree's demise fortunately left his neighbor's roof in tact.

Lee Kulikauskas said he was actually pleased to see only his gutters ruined. As he stood in his yard surveying damage, wind and rain pelted his body. Things weren't so bad he couldn't laugh.

"We were lucky," he said.

Seven Springs Boulevard

Outside of her home, Becky Kipkowski, was trying to entice her 150-pound Great Dane, Roscoe, to take advantage of the last moments before hurricane winds were forecast to hit.

"He's petrified of the rain," she said. And he wasn't the only one nervous on Sunday.

"I videotaped the last one and it was nothing compared to this rain," said Kipkowski, 49.

The worst part, she said, was the way it caught some here off guard.

"We didn't anticipate it coming to us," she said.

But for better or worse, the previous storms have trained her on what to do.

"I put the board up last night on our one big window. I kept the sandbags here from two hurricanes ago," said Kipkowski, who moved to Seven Springs three years ago.

This weekend she was already serving as a makeshift public works employee: "I go out there and clean out my drain because if I don't the street will flood. I know the city workers can't get to it."

"It's unreal," she said.

U.S. 19 and

Trouble Creek Road,

New Port Richey

Linda Ayers packed six bags of ice into her car then went inside the Texaco station to get a disposable camera. She figured she'll need before and after pictures of her Gulf Harbors home.

"I don't like the looks of this one," she said, casting a wary eye outside. It was 8:30 a.m. and cars were backed up into the street, waiting for what gas remained. Inside people scooped up snacks and drinks.

"Nobody's prepared," 59-year-old Ayers said. "It's been like crying wolf with these other storms. It got to be like a joke. But now I'm not sure that's the case."

Betmar Acres Mobile Home Park, Zephyrhills

Dan and Betty Morauski drove from Michigan to their winter home Saturday thinking Jeanne was an east coast problem.

When the snowbirds arrived about 9 p.m. it was dark and drizzling. They turned on the television and got an unpleasant surprise. Zephyrhills was right in the storm's path.

"We turned the lights on, the water on and the TV on and it said "evacuate,' " said Mrs. Morauski, 69. "So we turned the lights off and the water off."

They tried a motel, but there was no room at the inn. So off they went, their Chevy Venture minivan still packed, to the hurricane shelter at Zephyrhills High.

"We wouldn't have come (from Michigan) if we had known," said Dan Marouski, 71, who has been a winter resident with his wife for 12 years.

The couple spent an uncomfortable night trying to sleep in upright lawn chairs.

Little Road,

New Port Richey

Still dressed in yellow pajamas, Trish Herman filled gallon jugs of water at a self-serve kiosk on Little Road about 9:30 a.m. "When I woke up this morning I could tell it was going to be bad," the 41-year-old Port Richey woman said, brushing wet hair from her eyes.

Herman went to sleep thinking the storm would pass by like the others, but now regrets not taking more precautions.

"I didn't even tape my windows this time or get sandbags," she said. "I guess everybody's a little lax."

New River area,


At Ralph's Travel Park on State Road 54 west of Zephyrhills, winds blew off the office awning at 9:30 a.m.

Maintenance manager Richard Trombley scrambled to secure debris and lay sand bags at the mobile home park.

"I'm trying to keep it all from flying around," Trombley said as he rode in a golf cart and gathered limbs and pieces of metal and plastic.

"I've been up all night," he said.

Nearby, about 20 residents hunkered down in the clubhouse as Jeanne swirled around them.

Park officials had been pumping the retention pond for four or five days.

Venus Avenue,

New Port Richey

As the rain slanted sideways and the power inside their house on Venus Avenue flickered on and off, cousins Patty Isherwood, 56, and Virginia Talley, 54, began to rethink their storm preparations.

"We were thinking this would be like the one we had last time," Isherwood said. But outside their street was empty, the neighbors already had hunkered down by 9:20 a.m. and forecasters put Jeanne on a path toward Pasco.

So 10 minutes later, Talley found herself outside with the lawn hose "filling up the damn garbage cans with water" _ again.

"We're just doing the same old routine," said Isherwood, who was sent home from her job at Publix. "Filling up water, putting ice in the chest, getting canned goods; the usual."

Meadow Pointe

and Land O'Lakes

Weary of six weeks of hurricane warnings, many central Pasco residents appeared to have lost their fear of Jeanne.

Highways that were empty during Frances three weeks ago were rumbling with traffic by the time the eye of Jeanne crossed central Pasco about 2 p.m.

Their boldness was understandable. Wind velocities seemed just shy of tree-cracking strength.

Frances felled weaker trees, leaving Jeanne to blow ineffectively against the stronger survivors.

Power outages were widespread but didn't necessarily duplicate the blackouts from Frances three weeks ago.

Parts of neighborhoods such as Meadow Pointe went black around midday. So did Land O'Lakes communities like Lake Padgett Estates East and Eagle Island Estates.

But the commercial strips with their accompanying traffic lights stayed mostly lit. Michelob Ultra and Budweiser signs glowed in the window of the Marathon gas station and mini mart at State Road 54 and Collier Parkway.

It wasn't just open, it was fairly buzzing, at least by hurricane standards. A couple of drivers pumped gas, one losing a hat in the wind. Others tried to stock up on milk and beer.

"We never close in any hurricane," clerk Jose Aliaga said as gales whipped the plate glass. "Even if the lights are off we're going to be here in case someone tries to steal something."

Across the street in Collier Commons shopping center, a solitary minivan buoyed an empty ocean of a parking lot. It stood in front of China Wok, where a cook ladled peanut oil into a sizzling wok.

"Grab a menu," restaurant owner Jin Rong Yank said when a customer walked in. "We're open."

Rowan Road,

New Port Richey

Even though the streets were empty, the parking lot at Blockbuster Video was still bustling at 10:20 a.m.

Despite being closed, cars pulled in one by one to turn in video games and pick up DVDs.

"I was coming to get something for the storm,' said Stephen Kamen, 70, who drove from Holiday, past downed branches to reach the store.

"It's not too bad," said Kamen _ a Florida resident for 17 years. "But this is very unusual" he said of the back-to-back storms hitting Pasco County.

Peering behind him at the darkened Blockbuster, he shrugged and headed back to his car. "I guess they're not going to open," he said.

But the trip wasn't entriely wasted, said Kamen _ slipping his DVD To End All Wars into the return slot. At least he saved himself a late fee.

Port Richey Mobile Park

Of all the trailers in this community off U.S. 19, only one showed signs of life Sunday morning, the bright yellow light shining through a kitchen window.

Rita Zak, 74, planned to evacuate with her neighbors but stuck around to look after her husband, who has surgery planned this week. Then the man on television told people who hadn't left to stay put. When Zak woke up at 7 a.m. the wind was barely stirring. But two hours later, gusts could be felt inside her home and the rain pelted its sides.

"I'm a little nervous," Zak said, "but we survived the other ones. The only thing I'm worried about is flooding. Hopefully the power won't go out."

Zephyrhills High School

Doris and Joseph Boyle rode out Charley in a Lake City motel and Frances at a Holiday Inn on Fletcher Avenue in Tampa. The Tampa hotel lost power during Frances and Joseph is on oxygen. So this time, the Wooddale Mobile Home Park couple decided a hotel was too risky and opted for the special needs section at Zephyrhills High School.

"We decided because of the oxygen we wanted to be someplace where they had a generator," said Doris, 61.

"It feels safe," said Joseph, 75.

Doris said she didn't mind the less than luxurious accommodations.

"This isn't a cruise ship," she said. "It's a lifeboat."

Quail Hollow

About 2:30 p.m. Sunday when the storm was nothing more than a drizzle, Pat Cerreto put on his boots and went outside to survey the damage. He decided things looked pretty good _ considering.

Cerreto and his neighbors had been without power since about 11 a.m. Because he draws his water from a well, the lack of power means a lack of running water.

"That's all right," Cerreto said. "When there's even a threat of a hurricane, we fill the bathtub with water" to make it possible to flush the toilet.

His roof was missing a shingle or two. He was still concerned about a couple of trees and branches that threatened to run into the power lines connected to his house. Just a few houses down the block, a towering cypress tree had toppled in the wind and came to rest on power lines that sagged under the weight. The plywood on the windows of the house nearest the toppled tree had this message painted in black: Keep Faith in God!

All in all, Cerreto's neighborhood was relatively unscathed.

Of course, given the community's history of flooding, he expects his waterlogged back yard and the ditch in front of his house to fill with even more water in the days to come.

"We deal with this all the time," Cerreto said. "It'll get even worse than what you see now."


Power stayed on at Lacoochee Elementary just long enough Sunday for the eggs, grits and biscuits to be cooked.

For the rest of the day, the hurricane shelter operated on a generator, keeping perishable food cold and lights on in the cafeteria.

The 170 or so evacuees had to spend the day in dark, warm classrooms until the bad weather passed. But many had come for the third time this summer, and were well-prepared.

Maryanne Martin, who lives in a mobile home on the Withlacoochee River, came with her sister and their husbands Saturday evening. They brought cell phones and battery-powered lights, televisions and radios.

"You take what you have to have," said Martin, 73.

Before dinner, she sat watching the news at a table built for youngsters, joking with her family about how to pass the time.

"We're going to start helping the kids do their homework," she said. "If they'll leave it out for us, we'll do it."

Times staff writers Melia Bowie, Rebecca Catalanello, Stephen Hegarty, Alex Leary, Molly Moorhead and James Thorner contributed to this report.


SCHOOLS CLOSED TODAY: Classes have been canceled at all Pasco County public schools.

GOVERNMENT CLOSURES: All county government offices, including county parks and libraries, will be closed to the public today, although emergency crews, damage assessment teams, utility workers and law enforcement officers will be working. The courthouses in Dade City and New Port Richey will be closed.

The cities of New Port Richey, Port Richey and Dade City also will be closed. Dade City has a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

The city of Zephyrhills will be open.

The county bus system will provide regular transit service today.

SAND AND SANDBAGS: Available at the following locations:

+ Pasco County Fire Station No. 10, 7912 Rhodes Road in Hudson.

+ Veteran's Memorial Park at 14333 Hicks Road in Hudson.

+ Pasco County Public Works Building at 7536 State St. (at West Pasco Government Center) in New Port Richey.

+ Pasco County Fire Station No. 17, 4251 Seven Springs Blvd. in Holiday.

+ Land O'Lakes Recreation Center at 3032 Collier Parkway in Land O'Lakes.

+ Pasco County Fire Station No. 16 at 34335 Chancey Road in Zephyrhills.

+ Zephyrhills Fire Department at 38410 Sixth Ave. in Zephyrhills.

+ Pasco County Fire Station No. 24 (old Dade City station) at 14317 Fourth St. in Dade City.

CUE THE KETTLE: A boil water notice has been issued for residents served by San Antonio city water. Those residents should bring their water to a rolling boil for at least a minute before using it for drinking or cooking.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Is available by calling the county's Resident Information Center at (727) 847-8959 or (352) 521-5137. Or tune into government cable access (Channel 19 in west Pasco and Channel 2 in east Pasco) or visit the county's Web sites: or

Source: Pasco County Office of Emergency Management.

ZEPHYRHILLS: A section of a roof is torn from a home at the Winters Mobile Home Park on Sunday as Jeanne passes through the area.

STATE ROAD 54 AND LITTLE ROAD: Light traffic braves high winds and driving rain as the storm approaches Pasco County at midday.

NEW PORT RICHEY: New Port Richey residents Frank Oliva, top, and Rita Warrick sleep in a Trinity Elementary School classroom Sunday. The couple went to the shelter about 6 p.m. Saturday. "It looks like we'll be here all day," Warrick said.

ZEPHYRHILLS: Thelma Tolson, 87, of Zephyrhills, takes a nap in her wheelchair to pass the time at the Zephyrhills High School shelter Sunday.

NEW PORT RICHEY: Meta Russell, 80, battles wind and rain as she arrives at Trinity Elementary School, which was designated a shelter for evacuated residents as Jeanne approached.

HUDSON BEACH: Sightseers catch the full force of crashing waves as water started to close in on the beach's parking lot, foreshadowing what could be major flooding in the area.

PORT RICHEY: A tree downed by winds from Hurricane Jeanne on Sunday rests atop the home of retiree James A. Stamos, 80, on Choice Drive. Stamos is not sure how much damage there is.