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Most fret over flooding, one goes fishing instead

Published Aug. 28, 2005

Swirling in the floodwaters are scenes of both frivolity and despair. Children catch fish from what used to be an open field. A family canoes to their house where rising water is ruining the floors and walls. In one mobile home park, a dispute erupts over who is flooding whom.

Hurricane Jeanne brought wind and rain to east Pasco, but since the storm passed Sunday, the headaches of flooding are only now setting in. Water is just reaching some neighborhoods where sandbags didn't do enough to keep it at bay.

Arlo Heinrich, who lives on Green Oak Lane in Hickory Hill Acres, rented a tractor two weeks ago to build a barrier in front of his house. He hoped the 3-foot orange-clay wall would keep water from rising faster than he could pump it out.

The water won.

"The ground was getting soggy, and I knew there was some leakage," Heinrich said Tuesday. "I figured the pumps would take care of it. But the dike didn't hold."

Heinrich and his family are staying in a hotel until they can find a house to rent. Wearing waist-high wading pants, he pulled his wife, Sharon, and son, Kendall, to the back door in a canoe so they could get in and pack up their belongings.

Sharon walked heavily to the boat.

"It's just unreal," she said. "It's like we're living in a nightmare."

Hickory Hill Acres is a perpetual flood zone. It receives water from numerous spots north and has only a 36-inch pipe under an old railroad bed to drain it.

Geoff and Phyllis Lavelle's house sits at one of the lowest points.

They had 2 inches of water on their back porch Tuesday and seemed sure it would keep rising. More had seeped in under the foundation and soaked the dark red carpet in their sunken living room.

It made a squishy noise when Geoff walked through.

"This is the second year in a row this has happened," he said. "This is a hell of a lot worse than last year."

Inside they had raised all their furniture _ a white leather couch balanced precariously on the kitchen counter. But Phyllis thought that might not be adequate defense.

"We need to get stuff out. Not up, out."

Farther upstream, on the north side of State Road 52, 12-year-old Cody Crum went fishing during his day off from Pasco Middle School. He lives with his grandmother in a mobile home on Coleman Avenue. Right now, they have a lake view across the street and a rushing river behind them.

"It isn't usually this deep, and it isn't usually this powerful," Cody said.

Using nets and poles, he caught a respectable haul of catfish and bream.

"I'm going to eat them," he said.

Nearby on Elm Avenue, Angelica Najar had to flee her mobile home with her husband and 1-year-old daughter when water seeped into the kitchen. Half of the adjacent mobile home was submerged.

Najar didn't know if they would be able to move back in.

"The floor is sort of messed up, and the walls are getting messed up too," she said.

The 18-year-old and her family are staying next door with her father, who raises chickens. They had just begun to feel some relief after Hurricane Frances.

"(The water) was going down, but now it's coming up," she said.

Can anyone be blamed for flooding?

Pasco County sheriff's deputies on Monday responded to a neighborhood dispute at Ramblewood Mobile Home Park, where a man said the park's dam was causing flooding on his property.

Victor Drew Mitchell, who lives on Palm Grove Drive, told deputies a sandbag dam in a ditch at Ramblewood was causing water to back up onto his lot. He had asked that the sandbags be removed once before, according to a report. An argument ensued, and Mitchell was asked to leave.

Bob Baerman, the park manager, told deputies he would remove the sandbags but warned allowing the increased water flow might overload the retention pond and cause further flooding on Mitchell's property.

Martin Zipperer helps his brother protect his home from still-rising floodwaters by filling a canoe with sandbags for him to use to place around his Hickory Hill Acres home. The area is prone to flooding, taking in water from the north, with only a 36-inch pipe to drain it away.