1. Local Weather

After a day of flooding, road closings and evacuations, the worst may be over

Suncoast Gateway Mobile Home  Village resident Minnie Jaresky is evacuated Monday with the help of the Florida Park Service's Cody Nolan, left, and the Port Richey Fire Department's Javier Cuevas as heavy rain and flooding continued in Pasco County. [BRENDAN FITTERER  | Times]
Suncoast Gateway Mobile Home Village resident Minnie Jaresky is evacuated Monday with the help of the Florida Park Service's Cody Nolan, left, and the Port Richey Fire Department's Javier Cuevas as heavy rain and flooding continued in Pasco County. [BRENDAN FITTERER | Times]
Published Aug. 3, 2015

While she loaded up on sandbags, Cynthia Reyes described what all of Tampa Bay endured on Monday.

"We woke up to a disaster this morning," said the Tampa resident.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for parts of Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough early Monday as several more inches of rain battered Tampa Bay.

The warnings in southwestern Pasco, northern Pinellas and northern Hillsborough were extended until 4:30 p.m. Much of the region was under a flood watch until further notice, according to the Weather Service.

Conditions in Pasco County were so bad that Gulf View Square mall in Port Richey shut its doors around 2 p.m., as did James A. Haley Veterans Hospital's clinic in New Port Richey.

Pasco emergency management officials called for an evacuation of sections of the Anclote River Estates, saying the waterway was expected to exceed major flood stage again Monday afternoon. The river was 20.83 feet high as of about 8 a.m.; the major flood stage is 24 feet. Pasco County officials expect the river to reach 26.5 feet by Monday afternoon, nearing the historic record of 27 feet.

WTSP 10Weather forecast three to six inches of rain Monday after more than a week of heavy soaking.

As of about 2 p.m., 5.93 inches of rain had fallen in the previous 12 hours in Odessa and 5.37 inches in Oldsmar, according to the National Weather Service. About 7.13 inches had fallen in Palm Harbor and 5.34 inches in Dunedin. In Pasco, 6.35 inches had soaked Holiday. The Weather Service numbers showed 4.39 inches of rainfall at Tampa International Airport and 2.39 inches at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.


Officials reported widespread flooding and road closures across South Tampa. Cars on side streets sat in water up to the door, a familiar image of the last 10 days. Some closures included: Lake Avenue between 46th and 48th Streets, Bayshore Boulevard between Rome Avenue and Platt Street and Dale Mabry Highway from Henderson Road to Clearview Avenue.

Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn tweeted: "Lots of flooding and street closures in South Tampa. Stay off the roads if possible." He later added that the Interstate 275 southbound exit ramp to Westshore Boulevard was totally flooded, causing significant delays. The ramp was reopened by 12:30 p.m., according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

On Kennedy Boulevard, traffic crawled if it moved at all. Katie Callihan, a barista at Buddy Brew, said customers were stranded as their cars were towed from the flooded side streets. Buddy Brew employees handed out coffee to stopped cars on Kennedy.

"We're just waiting it out and hoping that it clears out soon," Callihan said. "But we're stuck with coffee and food, so it's okay."

About eight to 10 families were evacuated from Raintree Apartments at 5618 Gibson Ave Monday afternoon, said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Coy.

Rescue units used small jon boats to ferry families from their homes where at least a foot of flooding had accumulated to shuttles that would take them to a nearby shelter.

The downpours caused Tampa International Airport to stop all arriving flights for at least 30 minutes about 9 a.m. Airport officials later let planes land during breaks in the rain, but everything was delayed. At about 11 a.m., there were 19 diverted planes at other airports waiting to fly into TIA and about 150 flights on the ground standing by.

Federal employee Curt Gadson, 55, spent the morning stuck in a stalled-out car on flooded Palmira Avenue in Palma Ceia, with more rain coming down.

"We need to capture this and send it out to California," he said with a laugh.

There was a car stalled in front of him and another one stalled behind him, and he was parked in front of a bungalow where a woman's flooded BMW had been towed home from Saturday's storms. Wreckers had been in the neighborhood all weekend, as in many parts of South Tampa.

A Tampa Bay Times reporter who had 3 inches of water in a garage on Saturday saw it recede late Sunday. But it all returned with Monday's rainfall.

The Little Manatee River At Wimauma was also past flood stage Monday, and the Weather Service extended a flood warning for the waterway until Wednesday afternoon. Busch Gardens was closed, along with several Hillsborough County parks and preserves.

The flooding forced some businesses to close, too, include Datz & Dough on MacDill Avenue in South Tampa. In a tweet, the restaurant said: "To all our patrons: Stay dry and be safe."

Mail delivery was delayed in some areas where roads where impassable or unsafe for travel, U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Enola Rice said.

Customers who did not receive their mail can pick it up at their local post office.

However, flooding in the Tampa Town 'N Country Post Office parking lot prevented vehicles from delivering to ZIP Codes 33615 and 33635, and preventing customers from picking up their mail.

Normal mail delivery will resume as soon as road conditions are safe.

Sandbags were available in Tampa on Monday for people showing proof of residence at Bobby Hicks Pool, Solid Waste and the Jackson Heights Playground between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. The Salvation Army Red Shield Lodge at 1514 N. Florida Ave planned to be open all day.


Deputies in Palm Harbor used a jon boat and Humvees to pull residents out of Caladesi RV Park. According to Palm Harbor Fire Rescue, 40 people were evacuated from Sherwood Forest RV Park and Caladesi RV Park. Officials said flood levels were at 3 to 4 feet and rising as of about 11 a.m.

Two Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) buses were sent to help with the evacuation. Roughly 40 more residents were sheltering in place.

In East Lake, the worst of the flooding was located within several neighborhoods, including Tarpon Woods, Ridgemoor and East Lake Woodlands, with reports of more than a foot of rain in some areas, said fire chief Tom Jamison. Several streets were deemed impassable.

"I've seen one rain event that was similar. This one eclipsed that one," he said. "This definitely is the worst I have seen."

Jamison said he was concerned about emergency calls in the heavily flooded areas because ambulances can't travel in water that is more than 10 inches deep.

County officials opened Clearwater Community Church at 2897 Belcher Road in Dunedin as a shelter for evacuees from Tarpon Woods.

Tarpon Springs fire Chief Rick Butcher said some streets were impassable Monday morning, including Martin Luther King Jr. Drive between Pinellas Avenue and Ring Street and Chesapeake Drive near Riverside Drive.

"It's pretty remarkable the amount of rain that we've gotten every day," Butcher said, but added "everything so far has been pretty manageable at this point."

Although there had been no reports of major flooding, Butcher said the fire department would monitor he Sponge Docks district as high tide approached about 3 p.m.

Traffic reports from WTSP described standing water on the Courtney Campbell Causeway and flooding at Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater. Tarpon Woods Boulevard in Palm Harbor was closed because of high water. Alt. U.S. 19 was shut between Curlew and Alderman roads, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Oldsmar's public works department offered free sandbags to the community at the east side of City Hall on 100 State St.

The Florida Highway Patrol advised drivers to use caution on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, where winds were gusting up to 43 miles per hour early Monday.


Deputies said they received 41 calls for service between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. regarding flooding. Little Road in New Port Richey was partially flooded between Ridge Road and Massachusetts Avenue, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Chris Nocco urged residents in the hardest hit areas to get off the road by 3 p.m., when the flooding was expected to reach its peak. He said deputies would be prepared in case any drivers or residents needed to be rescued.

"Please call your kids," Nocco said. "Tell them what is going on."

Director of Emergency Management Annette Doying said county officials were struggling to manage the flood conditions the roads were saturated "to the brink" by the recent deluge.

"The water is moving across the surface," she said.

Doying said authorities rescued stranded motorists in New Port Richey and Port Richey on Monday morning, but no injuries had been reported by about noon.

Timothy Fussell, the Port Richey fire chief, said rescuers helped 13 elderly residents evacuate homes at the flooded Suncoast Gateway Mobile Home Community. It was a voluntary evacuation, he said.

In Holiday, the downpours caused a ground swell that lifted a backyard pool at 3340 Roxbury Drive. Carlos Manuel Iglesia said he first heard a loud popping sound at 3:30 a.m., but he thought it was nothing. When he looked in his backyard at 5 a.m., he saw that the pool had risen.

It didn't appear that the house itself suffered any damage, Iglesia said, but Pasco County Fire Rescue told the family to evacuate. "We're in the streets," Iglesia said, standing in a neighbor's garage to escape the heavy rain. "We couldn't go to work."

The American Red Cross opened shelters for evacuees at First Presbyterian Church, 7540 Ridge Road, in Port Richey and Fasano Hurricane Shelter, 11611 Denton Ave., in Hudson. The latter can accommodate pets.

Flooding in western Pasco County prompted the school district to relocate children in the PLACE summer programs at four elementary schools.

Monique Annas and Stanley Shaver Jr., who live at 8618 Cameo Drive in New Port Richey, said 2 inches of water came inside every room in their house Monday morning.

"It's been a slow torture watching the water get higher and higher," Annas said.

The water has risen from Bass Lake behind their home, leaving 4 feet in the backyard and 3 feet in the front yard, Annas said. They have lost nearly all of their belongings, aside from clothes that was elevated on hangers.

Annas and Shaver and their two children don't have insurance on their home, and are hoping to stay with Annas' dad while they look for more housing.

Danielle Denney and Michael Perry have 36 inches of water in the basement of their home in front of Bass Lake on Cameo Drive. Their electric company has told them it is shutting off the power, forcing the couple to leave and stay with Denney's parents.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office reported that flooding had closed roads at three locations along the coast: Cortez Boulevard and Bayou Drive, Cortez and Pine Island Drive and at Shoal Line Boulevard and Tropical Drive.

When will it end? Forecasters say Tuesday, maybe. For more coverage, see the story in today's paper.