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Roofers flooded with bids for repair

At Safeway Roofing in Port Richey, more than 100 calls had come in by 4 p.m. Monday. On a typical day, the small roofing company takes 10 to 20.

In Holiday, employees with Daryl Schram Roofing already were putting people on a weeklong wait list just for an estimate.

Workers with Bartlett Roofing of Central Florida in Zephyrhills spent much of the day assessing damages and offering help where they could.

Across the county, roofers are in demand as residents need to make all sorts of repairs, from missing shingles to gaping holes.

"Everybody feels like theirs is an emergency, and it's true, but we're just so booked right now," said Myrna Morgan with Daryl Schram Roofing. "We probably won't even be accepting phone calls (Tuesday) seeking estimates.

"It's just overwhelming," she continued. "We don't see any light at the end of the tunnel. This week was supposed to be catch-up for the last storm."

Instead, Jeanne has set roofers back again _ leaving many wary of giving repair timelines, although a few companies estimate it could take from two weeks to a month to do repairs.

Throughout Pasco, hospital officials, strip malls managers and homeowners all endured seemingly endless busy signals as they called for roof help.

In Holiday, business owner Darrin Mercado, who owns three shops off of U.S. 19 and Sunray _ Get Cellular, Get Shot (photography) and Get Tan _ saw $12,000 in renovations wash away Sunday.

"I have no business, no power, no sign," said Mercado, 36. Jeanne ripped off the center's roof, soaked insulation and caused ceiling tiles to crash.

Many, like New Port Richey homeowners Nick and Joanne Kelly, were just hoping for a quick fix to keep the rain out after their ceiling caved in Sunday.

The couple weathered three storms this summer and 32 years in their Gazania Street home without incident, but Jeanne delivered a crushing setback as it blew past.

"I was in the computer room and I heard what sounded like a great big boom," said Joanne Kelly, 64. "I got up and looked out the dining room window and said, "Oh my God, someone's roof blew off.' Then I heard all this water rushing in and I looked in my Florida room. Sure enough someone's roof blew off. Mine!"

Her husband, a mechanic for Pasco County's fleet maintenance department, had packed a suitcase and left for work that morning. She called him at 4 p.m., she said. "I told him the ceiling's caving in."

Nick Kelly drove home to find his roof sitting on his front lawn and the back of his house exposed. Rain was ruining his new pink-flowered wallpaper and furniture too heavy to move. The couple fell asleep to the sound of rain pouring into their master bedroom.

"I know a lot of people are a lot worse off, but I'm not those people. I'm me," Joanne Kelly said Monday. "For the first time this morning I broke down."

Roofing companies said they are working to set priorities for calls and intend to treat those with serious tree or roof damage first. Customers who have warranties or do frequent business with them are also going to top the list. But almost everyone will have to wait, they predicted. Part of the delay is due to busy insurance adjusters still trying to reach damaged areas, assist with claims and approve roof work.

State officials did not have figures for the number of roofing repair requests coming in. But Nina Banister, a spokeswoman with Florida's Department of Financial Services said that since Hurricane Charley hit, the agency has received more than 40,000 calls for assistance.

The department regulates the insurance companies that respond after storms, and "the No. 1 request we're getting is help me get an adjuster," Banister said. More than 35,000 adjusters are now crisscrossing the state, but "you can't hold anybody to a time frame with this kind of devastation."

"There's not enough contractors right now to step in and do the rebuilding," said Paul Thompson, executive vice president of the Florida Home Builders Association.

In early September, Gov. Bush issued an executive order easing licensing requirements for building contractors to help homeowners in finding roof repair workers.

The order enabled members of the builders association to pitch in with such work, but "you're looking at an industry that was at capacity before the hurricanes hit," Thompson said, noting the boom in residential construction and shortage of labor and supplies.

"People are going to have to be patient," he said.

Times staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this report.