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  1. Local Weather

Workers focus on human needs and damage assessment after storm

NEW PORT RICHEY — As the levels began to recede in the Anclote River and other flooded areas, Pasco County workers were dispatched to offer affected residents the one thing they seemed to have more than enough of: water.

County workers passed out crates of bottled water and cleaning supplies to families impacted by Hurricane Hermine.

"The life basics," said Charlie Newman of Pasco County Parks and Recreation. "What people need to survive."

He and his team of four visited the neighborhood on the east side of Bass Lake twice on Monday to hand out the water and "cleanup kits" — boxes full of buckets, mops, Pine Sol, sponges, gloves and other household cleaning supplies — to residents whose homes were infiltrated by floodwater.

The Bass Lake area was still under a recommended evacuation, as were the Magnolia Valley area and Lake Worrell. That's a total of 1,733 homes. An additional 744 homes were under mandatory evacuation in the Elfers Parkway area along the Anclote, the Suncoast Gateway Mobile Home Park and the Blue Heron Mobile Home Park. A mandatory evacuation at the Worthington Court Apartments was lifted Monday.

The Anclote River was at 21.9 feet, which is at the top of minor flood stage, Monday evening. It was projected to fall below flood stage by this evening.

Despite the evacuation recommendation, some residents along Bass Lake stayed. Most homes weren't taking on water, though the water was 12 to 18 inches deep in some places in the street.

Single mother Sodonia Bernard accepted a crate of water Monday afternoon. Her water, like all the drinking water in the Bass Lake area, is supplied by a well. And the homes in her neighborhood are on septic tanks, which can back up during flooding.

Officials recommended that residents on well water take precautions, like boiling their water or sticking to bottled water, until they can get their well water tested.

Even with the standing water and safety issues, Bernard said she stuck around because she didn't have the money for a hotel room and didn't want to impose upon a friend. And, she said, it didn't seem that bad. She moved to her Brookwood Drive home last month from Brandon, and the move ate up much of her disposable income.

"I didn't want to rack up a bunch of debt if I wasn't going to be in danger," she said. "I felt I'd be more comfortable here."

The flooding in her neighborhood was as a result of an overwhelmed drainage canal behind her property. Additional rain could mean more flooding for the neighborhood and New Port Richey's forecast for Monday night included scattered thunderstorms.

"I thought the worst was over, but if it's going to rain tonight and if there's another storm coming, I may go reassess," Bernard, 52, said.

Next door, David Rivera, his girlfriend and their 2-month-old son, King, also took two crates of water. He said evacuating with an infant seemed cumbersome.

"We thought about leaving," Rivera, 23, said, "but we only have our uncle down here and he's (in Lakeland) and we had problems getting to him."

The family was left stranded, according to Rivera, when their roommate took her car and went to St. Petersburg without them. They had been relying on that car to get around.

Since she left, Bernard had been taking them to buy groceries. They'd reconsider leaving, Rivera said, if the water gets so high that they can no longer get to the store.

County officials were encouraging those in evacuation zones who have no other options to head to the Mike Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter in Hudson, a 1,000-bed facility where guests are treated to hot meals, showers and cots. The county even offered to pick people up who wished to evacuate but couldn't get to the shelter themselves. There were 17 people in the shelter Monday, officials said.

In addition to the crews delivering water, other county workers were doing damage assessments Monday. So far, nine homes were destroyed, 297 homes suffered major damage and 519 suffered minor damage or were affected by the storm, officials said. Workers had surveyed only about 60 percent of the county Monday, so those numbers may go up.

In Hernando County, officials identified two structures that were destroyed, 18 that suffered major damage and 513 that suffered minor damage or were affected. Officials estimated the total damage in that county was close to $8 million. Pasco officials did not have a dollar estimate Monday.

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or Follow @josh_solomon15.