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Wind and rain trail Hermine

Bruce and Sarah Pietri noticed their 12-year-old daughter, Shyanne, was missing just as the wind started whistling through the windows and their mobile home began shaking Thursday night.

Bruce Pietri, 45, realized she was likely at a friend's house two doors down in the Town and Country Mobile Home Park in Valrico and rushed out to get her.

As he turned the corner, arms raised to shield his face, Pietri saw that a massive oak, split at the base, had sliced into the middle of the friend's home. He tried the door, but it wouldn't budge.

"Everybody was screaming," Pietri said, "and I couldn't get in."

Finally, the door gave way. The three adults and three children inside were uninjured.

The home was one of five destroyed when strong winds toppled trees at the park as Hurricane Hermine made its pass by Tampa Bay. Thirteen other homes there were damaged, according to Hillsborough County code enforcement.

Florida's first hurricane in 11 years flooded Florida's west coast with rain and high tides, knocked trees onto roads and homes and wiped away parts of Pinellas County's beaches on its way to the Big Bend.

Hermine made landfall south of Tallahassee around 1:30 a.m. as a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 80 mph. There it washed out roadways, flattened mobile homes and left tens of thousands without electricity.

It was blamed for one death: An Ocala man was found dead beneath a tree that had been blown over by the storm.

Pinellas shelter hit

Residents sleeping under a pavilion at Pinellas Hope, Catholic Charities' shelter ministry near Ulmerton Road, awoke to find about 60 tents destroyed by the wind and rain. Pam Long, director of homeless and veterans services, said about 80 percent of the tents had water inside.

Winds Thursday night and into Friday topped out at about 30 mph at the shelter, according to Long. In a home, that's hardly significant.

"But when you're in a tent," she said, "that's all it takes."

Nearby in Dunedin, about 13 inches of rain overwhelmed sewage systems, pushing gallons of wastewater into Clearwater's North Greenwood neighborhood. The spillage was caused by a failure at the Marshall Street water treatment plant Thursday, and temporary pumps were still unable to contain the water on Friday.

Some Sponge Dock businesses in Tarpon Springs escaped flooding caused by a mix of Hermine's rain and the overnight high tide in the Anclote River.

Others weren't so lucky.

Yiota Czeck's family owns three stores along Athens Street, a road adjacent to Dodecanese Boulevard, which runs along the water. She arrived late Friday morning to find all of them flooded and without power.

"I have been here 18 years, and this is the first time this has happened," she said. "We have had water, but not like this. I was so surprised."

Store owners said the tide was so high overnight on Thursday that boats parked along the seawall were floating as high as the sidewalk.

"It it hadn't been for the posts that the boats tie onto, I think the boats would have come right onto the cement," said Nina Gray, owner of Yia Yia's gift shop.

Gusts in Hillsborough

Further east, in Hillsborough County, 29,000 people lost power overnight. As of 9 a.m. Friday, the number of residents without power was down to 11,000, said Preston Cook, Hillsborough's emergency management director.

The strong gusts knocked over trees and power poles, downing wires in Plant City and Dover, along with the oaks in the Town and Country Mobile Home Park. No injuries were reported.

"Fortunately, we were pretty much spared the brunt of the worst of the storm but we did have some responses," he said.

Flooding along the Suncoast

In Pasco County, dozens of residents fled rising waters.

Jennifer Webb woke up to ankle-deep water in her Hudson Beach home. Thinking fast, the 36-year-old and her three young children scurried in water that quickly became knee-high into Webb's Ford Explorer. She packed in her neighbors, four adults and eight children, before heading to safety.

They were among 38 people from Pasco and Hernando counties who sought refuge from the storm Friday at Mike Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter in Hudson.

"Another inch of water and we couldn't have gotten the Explorer out," Webb said.

Early Friday, a storm surge of more than 4 feet swamped coastal areas. Pasco County said it answered 32 requests for help between 1 and 6 a.m. from people trying to evacuate. Even so, county officials said they believed its residents had prepared properly after what may have been initial complacency.

The county had distributed 38,000 sandbags since Monday, said Kevin Guthrie, Pasco's emergency services director.

"I think people heeded our warnings to prepare themselves,'' he said.

Pasco County Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said she had seen at least three cars upside-down in ditches.

About 12,000 homes in Hernando County lost power as the storm passed, though service had been restored to most of them by midmorning, according to Hernando County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Denise Moloney.

Assessing damage statewide

Not far from where the storm made landfall, Gov. Rick Scott gave his first public address about the storm at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.

Downed trees blocked major roadways, and street lights were out in many places in the state capital. Areas without power included much of Wakulla County, where Hermine came ashore, and Florida State University, where it's possible power won't return until Sunday.

To help students cope with the lack of air-conditioning, the university was offering a free "relief station" at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. Students had access to electrical outlets, movies, air-conditioning, snacks, beverages, other activities and information about storm recovery.

Trees fell at the Governor's Mansion, where Scott waited out the storm, and around the Emergency Operations Center in the Southwood area of Tallahassee.

"We will spend the coming days assessing the damage and responding to needs of our Florida families and communities," Scott said.

The state's priority is ensuring the hardest-hit counties are safe and getting power back online, he said. Just one in 10 residents in Wakulla County had power late Friday.

The state has deployed National Guard units to Crystal River with instructions to move north up the coast, addressing any problems in communities hit by the storm. A further 6,000 National Guardsmen are ready to respond, Scott said.

He praised first responders, including those in Pasco and Hernando counties whom he credited with saving at least 18 people from rising flood waters.

"Heroes across our state answered the call last night to help," Scott said.

Times staff writers Zachary T. Sampson, Megan Reeves, Tracey McManus, C. T. Bowen, Howard Altman, Dan DeWitt, Josh Solomon, Michael Auslen, Tony Marrero, Sara DiNatale and Jack Suntrup contributed to this report. Contact Colleen Wright at cwright@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.

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