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  1. Local Weather

Hernando starts assessing Irma damage; schools closed until Monday

Hurricane Irma knocked a tree over onto a mobile home in Brooksville's Clover Leaf RV Park. [MEGAN REEVES  |  Times|
Hurricane Irma knocked a tree over onto a mobile home in Brooksville's Clover Leaf RV Park. [MEGAN REEVES | Times|
Published Sep. 11, 2017

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County workers got an early start scouring the county with the utility companies on Monday to find out which roadways need to be cleared of dangerous downed power lines and the many trees felled by Hurricane Irma.

LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma

Hernando County school superintendent Lori Romano also announced that all county schools will be closed until Monday. With so many schools used as shelters and other county conditions, she said it made sense for schools to open next week.

The county reported that there were still 50,000 residents without power and a threat of a late afternoon storm surge still loomed along the coast, officials urged residents to be patient, stay where they were sheltering and await further word on when they could move freely around the county again.

Still, some residents hit the roads anyway, anxious to get home to check on their properties, while others just wanted to be out of shelters.

During a mid-Monday news conference at the Emergency Operations Center, County Administrator Len Sossamon said Hernando County was lucky because Irma's eye, which was predicted to cross right over the county, had weakened by the time it arrived and inflicted far less damage than predicted.

"We're fortunate," he said. "We're blessed, however you couch it. It could have been worse."

COMPLETE COVERAGE:Find all our coverage about Hurricane Irma here

No deaths or injuries were reported in Hernando due to the storm, officials said, and only one rescue was needed, for a woman trapped in her car.

There was a house fire reported after emergency vehicles were pulled off the road late Sunday as Hurricane Irma's tropical-force winds started arriving in the area. A caller reported that a structure fire near State Road 50 and Deltona had trapped as many as four disabled people. Firefighters were hampered by a fallen tree in addition to weather, but they went out anyway. But when they arrived, there was no one in the home.

At shelters, there have been other challenges. Emergency Management director Cecilia Patella said this was the largest sheltering effort ever undertaken by the county as more than 5,000 people rode out the storm in six county schools. By the time the storm had passed, two of those schools were without electricity and by Monday morning, two were on a boil water notice.

The entire city of Brooksville is on that notice for reasons officials could not explain. So is the entire area to the west of Interstate 75, where a tree fell and broke a water main.

While residents were struggling without power, as were the shelters, so was the Hernando County Detention Center and the Emergency Operations Center, which lost power just as the worst of the storm's winds started buffeting Brooksville. Both facilities were on generator power.

Once roads are cleared and power restoration begins in earnest, the county has 20 teams lead by the building department which will examine and document structural damage. The plan is to seek help from the Federal Emergency Management Association with the recovery, Sossamon said.

Officials stressed that residents still need to take care out there. The Sheriff's Office reminded drivers that at intersections where the traffic signals are out need to treat those intersections as if they were four-way stops. And they reminded residents that every downed power line should be treated as if it were live.

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