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Digging out, feeling "lucky'

Tim Nelson ran to the kitchen and pawed through the rubble. He tossed aside drywall and insulation, desperate for a sign of his mother.

With a thunderous crack and splinter, the rest of the roof in the rear of the Sea Ranch home peeled back. Nelson crouched and covered his head as debris pelted his arms and back.

When he looked up, he saw Jeanne, raging and gray.

And then he saw his mother, Joanne, coming in from outside. She had gone out looking for him when the winds started to dismantle the home.

Tim, 22, was shaking and his voice cracked. "You don't want to go in," he said. His mom gave him a hug.

All along Garris Drive, similar scenes of destruction played out Sunday afternoon. Of all the streets in Sea Ranch, Garris appeared the hardest hit. At least six roofs were torn off, sending dangerous chunks of wood through the air. Mailboxes vanished. Fences blew over. Cars were marred.

"It was definitely intense," Will Malcom, 28, who lives across from the Nelsons, said Monday. About 5 p.m. Sunday, he said, he heard something smacking his living room window. It was shingles.

He watched a roof stand on end, then blow away. Part of it landed in his front yard. Still more hit a Chevrolet Cavalier in the driveway, denting the trunk and cutting a Z-shape in the antennae. A street light smashed in his fence, which was weird, he thought, because there are no street lights on Garris Drive.

"I feel very lucky," Malcom said. "Very lucky."

Down the street, Jeff Spivey was cleaning out a soggy Florida room on Monday after the wind ripped off part of his roof. A contractor already was at work repairing it.

"We were more worried about the water (flooding in from a gulf-fed canal) than the wind," said his wife, Paula Spivey. "But then the roof blew off." She displayed her right hand, which was puffy. "I've been squeegeeing water all day."

Back at the Nelsons', mother and son carried what belongings they could to the front lawn to dry. A copy of Cooking with Honey and the July 2001 edition of New Jersey Monthly lay amid a pile of books on the floor. A bowl of onions was all that remained in the kitchen. Water still dripped from a felt-lined jewelry box.

"What we need is boxes. Lots of boxes," Joanne Nelson told a person on her cell phone.

They have lived there for 13 years, owning it for the past two. This was not the first time the dwelling was damaged by nature _ the no name storm of 1993 rendered it inhabitable for five months _ but it outlasted Charley, Frances and Ivan.

Now it will be months before the home will be filled again.

"This is life," 62-year-old Joanne Nelson said. "You start over. It's another challenge."

She allowed herself only a few tears, for she has faced worse adversity. She just went through chemotherapy to treat ovarian cancer.

Alex Leary can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is learysptimes.com.

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