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Video: Vinoy hotel valet garage floods, possibly damaging dozens of vehicles

A disabled Mercedes sedan seen at the top of the driveway of the flooded valet garage of the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
A disabled Mercedes sedan seen at the top of the driveway of the flooded valet garage of the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Aug. 2, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — Torrential rains combined with high tide resulted in the flooding of the valet parking garage of the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, apparently damaging dozens of vehicles.

The city recorded nearly four inches of rain in the area between 4 and 5 p.m. Thursday, said St. Petersburg water resources director John Palenchar. The tide was also about three feet above normal sea level that afternoon, which can fuel flooding by allowing less drainage, said National Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Fleming.

The full effects of that became apparent Friday morning. Guests complained about their flooded vehicles to the Tampa Bay Times. Hotel management would not let anyone into the garage on Fifth Avenue NE. Yellow tape blocked the entrance and storm debris lined the pavement.

A black Mercedes sedan sat in the driveway, apparently stalled. Inside the garage, a dark water line was visible near window level of a white import as pumps worked to remove the last several inches of standing water that remained more than 12 hours after the deluge stopped.

RELATED STORY: She led the great St. Pete parking garage revolt. Then she was arrested.

The hotel's general manager, Barbara Readey, said in a statement to the Times that the hotel is working to "accommodate guests' needs and concerns, assess damages and restore normal garage operations as soon as possible .... We sincerely regret any inconvenience."

A spokesman for the parking garage operator, 717 Parking, declined to comment.

Early on, the lack of communication did not sit well with some guests, such as Debbie and Randy Sugden of Venice, who were staying at the hotel to attend their grandchild's swim meet. Their 2013 Cadillac XTS sedan (the premium model) was still in the flooded garage Friday morning, they said, with little communication from the hotel on what will happen next.

"I've been treated better at a Courtyard (Marriott) than here," Debbie Sugden said.

The water reached as high as their windows, the couple said, and they complained that they weren't allowed to access their car.

"They're not talking to us very thoroughly," Randy Sugden said. "They have no long-range plan. They can't tell you when the cars are going to get towed out. They should have tow trucks here now to get them out. They're not doing anything."

He said the hotel staff did drive him to a rental agency so the couple could rent a car. Then at about 10:30 a.m., someone retrieved Randy Sugden's glasses and case from their Cadillac — which was soaked.

Ann and Rick Graham, who was visiting from Sebring, said she received a call at about 10 p.m. Thursday from a hotel employee saying the garage with the couple's 2018 Toyota Tundra pickup truck had flooded.

"He was very apologetic,'' Ann Graham said. "The poor man, his voice was shaking. I reassured him we'd deal with it tomorrow.''

She said the employee asked if the Tundra was a rental or personal vehicle and said the hotel would "reach out to all guests to discuss the next step.'' The couple said they had not yet contacted their insurance company and were debating whether to proceed with their scheduled fishing trip.

The garage of the four-star waterfront hotel in downtown St. Petersburg is below street level in an area prone to flooding in heavy rain or abnormally high tides. The city's stormwater supervisor, Sam Sturgill, said the hotel asked the city for pumps to help clear out the flooding, but he said he wasn't sure if the city was able to provide them.

There were no issues with the wastewater or stormwater drainage systems as a result of the torrential downpour around high tide, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman wrote in a tweet Friday.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate. Contact Ben Leonard at bleonard@tampabay.com or at (727) 893-8421. Follow Ben @Ben___Leonard.

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