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AS WATER LICKED AT HOME, ELDERLY WOMAN WAITED

Cut off and afraid of a fall, she was rescued by firefighters.

On Monday afternoon, Ruby Douglas was working on a word search puzzle on her porch in the Sherwood Forest Travel Trailer Park as if it were just another day.

The first hint that it was far from a typical day was the humming of the wet vac. Her son, Jake Hoskins, was moving the machine over the drenched living room carpet.

"I saw my (deck) stairs float away, but better them than me,'' said Douglas, 92. "My son won't let me do a thing now that it is over. I suppose that's good.''

Douglas was one of about 40 residents who were evacuated from the park due to heavy rains from Tropical Storm Debby. Sherwood Forest, a community of about 100 mobile homes and recreational vehicles, sits in a low-lying area off Tampa Road.

"It was a river in here,'' said Douglas, who has owned a home at Sherwood Forest since 1976. "I've never seen anything like what happened yesterday.''

At about 3 p.m. Sunday, Hoskins phoned his mother from his home in Holiday. "I told her to keep an eye on the water, and that I'd come and get her,'' said Hoskins, 71.

However, Douglas soon lost power and her phone connection. Although she saw the water rising up toward her deck, she decided to stay put. "I wasn't going to go anywhere. I know not to hurry because I know if I fall, that would be very bad.''

Around 5 p.m., Douglas saw firefighters outside her window in the pouring rain. "They had walked over here with a boat, and they told me that I had to leave.''

Douglas didn't hesitate.

"I didn't even take my purse. I let them put me in the boat,'' she said. "When I got in, there were only two people, and by the time they pulled us to the clubhouse, there were 12 of us in it.''

Meanwhile, Hoskins had received a call from the park management letting him know that his mother was being evacuated to the clubhouse.

Douglas and Hoskins spent the night at a Hampton Inn in Tarpon Springs.

"When she got to her hotel room, my mom fell asleep right away. Right when she hit the comforter,'' Hoskins said. "We have never seen anything like what we saw (Sunday), and this wasn't even a hurricane.''

Piper Castillo is reachable at pcastillo@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4163.

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