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In Pasco, Idalia’s flood waters came fast: ‘Don’t even know how I got here.’

Rescue teams received dozens of calls early Wednesday from residents stranded or in need of medical care.
 
Ellen Feiler, 61, takes a cigarette break near a Pasco County Fire Rescue bus after a team rescued her from her mobile home in Hudson early Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023, in the wake of Hurricane Idalia.
Ellen Feiler, 61, takes a cigarette break near a Pasco County Fire Rescue bus after a team rescued her from her mobile home in Hudson early Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023, in the wake of Hurricane Idalia. [ IAN HODGSON | Times ]
Published Aug. 30, 2023|Updated Aug. 30, 2023

HUDSON — Ellen Feiler didn’t think Hurricane Idalia would amount to much when she went to sleep in her mobile home in the Hudson Hollow RV Park.

She had ice and plenty of food — and besides, she figured she had nowhere else to go.

“I don’t have family here and I don’t have any money,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to a shelter. So what other option was there?”

When she awoke to 3 feet of water lapping at the door of her home, she started fearing for her life.

Feiler, 61, was among dozens of Pasco County residents who needed water and medical assistance early Wednesday after Idalia passed by on its way to slamming into Florida’s Big Bend region.

Two red school buses retrofitted as rolling fire department medical facilities were stationed in a U-Haul parking lot just off U.S. 19 in Hudson. That’s where the county had seen a concentration of calls as rising water swept into low-lying coastal communities.

Dozens of raised military-style vehicles came and went after sunrise, ferrying stranded residents from their flooded homes to county shelters.

When Feiler heard a rescue boat pass she went outside and started waving. She quickly packed a duffel bag and jumped on board. It wasn’t until she reached dry land that she realized her purse was left behind, leaving her with no ID and no money.

But not everyone left. Despite the rising tide, her neighbor decided to ride out the rest of the storm at home.

”I couldn’t believe it,” Feiler said. “‘It’s your life, I guess,’ I said. ‘Wonder if I’ll see you again.’”

Crews were seeing 3 to 5 feet of water in some areas early Wednesday. That’s already dangerously high, said Deputy Fire Chief Jeremy Sidlauskas, and storm surge levels were expected to double by noon.

So far, no storm-related injuries have been reported. Residents who are trapped at home should call 911 or flag down a rescue vehicle if it’s safe to go outside, Sidlauskas said.

Bryan William, 57, thought his home in Sea Ranch, a waterside community just outside Hudson, would be safe.

Bryan William, 57, takes a break inside a Pasco County Fire Rescue bus on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023, in the wake of Hurricane Idalia. William was rescued along with other residents in the Sea Ranch waterside community near Hudson when streets and homes began to flood shortly after he woke up around 7:30 a.m.
Bryan William, 57, takes a break inside a Pasco County Fire Rescue bus on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023, in the wake of Hurricane Idalia. William was rescued along with other residents in the Sea Ranch waterside community near Hudson when streets and homes began to flood shortly after he woke up around 7:30 a.m. [ IAN HODGSON | Times ]

Despite living feet from the water, he thought he was in evacuation Zone B. His street had never flooded before, not even during Hurricane Ian, he said.

He realized his mistake when he woke up at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. In reality, his home was in Zone A — a mandatory evacuation zone — and he should not have been there. Water was seeping under his front door.

Stepping outside, William said, he saw there was about a foot of water pooling on his residential street. Then, in what felt like the blink of an eye, the flood level jumped up another 2 feet, completely flooding his home.

William said his brain switched off as he walked through his home observing the water creep higher and higher. He made his way outside, where neighbors were also standing in the street in a daze.

When a military-style Pasco Fire Rescue vehicle rolled into the neighborhood, William packed his phone, his laptop and a change of clothes. Left behind were his photos, medication, other things. Recounting the ordeal, his voice trailed off.

“It’s like, I don’t even know how I got here,” he said. “I’m feeling fine, though. What can you do?”

• • •

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