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Mood: Resolute, recovering and weary

In poststorm Pasco County, getting the grand tour means climbing atop the wind-damaged roof at Community Hospital, chatting with people with damaged homes and eating county jail chicken sandwiches alongside the crews at the county's Emergency Operations Center.

Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings did all three Tuesday as she offered words of encouragement and pats on the back to nurses, doctors, deputies, county crews and power company officials who spent four of the past six weeks dealing with hurricanes.

"I know you've worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week a whole lot longer than any of us planned," Jennings told a crowd of Pasco County workers at the Emergency Operations Center.

"Thank you is not a big enough word."

The county still was recovering from Frances when Jeanne tore through Pasco on Sunday, ripping off roofs, knocking down trees and dumping water into already-flooded neighborhoods. Jennings called the two storms "the evil twin sisters."

"We've never seen anything like this, and hopefully we never will again," Jennings said.

School is back in session, power outage figures are dropping and damage estimates are rising as Pasco recovers from the latest hit.

Three Pasco County schools _ Marchman Technical Center, Calusa Elementary and Ridgewood High _ were still partly without power Tuesday afternoon. But Superintendent John Long was optimistic that Progress Energy would restore electricity to those campuses before the start of school today.

Pasco's students have missed five days this school year due to weather conditions. Two makeup days already have been scheduled, but Long said the he was awaiting official word from Gov. Jeb Bush about whether another two or three rescheduled days would be necessary.

By Tuesday evening, crews had restored power to about three-quarters of the Pasco customers who had lost electricity because of Jeanne. About 23,181 households remained in the dark, including 19,466 Progress Energy customers, 2,715 customers of the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative and about a thousand TECO customers.

The cooperative said power should be restored to all customers by midnight Thursday. Progress Energy wants to have power back on for all its customers by midnight Friday.

After taking stock of the wind and flood damage in about 40 percent of the county, officials reported:

635 single-family homes with minor damage and 26 with major damage.

40 mobile homes with minor damage, 121 with major damage and one destroyed.

21 multifamily units with minor damage and 16 with major damage.

11 commercial buildings with minor damage.

At this pace, Jeanne's damage will surpass Frances' toll in Pasco County.

Community Hospital took a hit from both storms. Frances' winds lifted the roof of the third-floor patient wing three weeks ago, forcing the hospital to move about 45 patients to other parts of the New Port Richey facility.

The roof was covered with 300 sandbags, awaiting repairs, when Jeanne's winds ripped off the covering again.

"We've got 400 (sandbags) up here now," hospital CEO Ernie Meier told Jennings as the small group of state officials and reporters walked on the rooftop.

Jennings thanked hospital workers for their long hours _ and offered encouragement to one employee who lost half her roof during the storm _ before heading out to the county's Emergency Operations Center.

The group _ which also included Alan Levine, secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration; state Secretary of Health Dr. John Agwunobi; state Sen. Mike Fasano and state Rep. Heather Fiorentino, both R-New Port Richey _ praised Pasco officials and crews for their recovery efforts.

They also discussed the need for more nurses at emergency shelters to help residents with medical conditions.

"The health department nurses have done it every time as one really long shift," said Michele Baker, Pasco's director of Emergency Management.

They finished the tour with a free lunch catered by the inmates at the Pasco County jail. The spread included chicken cordon bleu sandwiches, a vat of coleslaw, a bowl of red grapes and sliced cantaloupe and a sheet of carrot cake.

"It beats any cooking I could do," said Jennings, smiling.

Staff writer Rebecca Catalanello contributed to this report.

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