Tropical Storm Hermine brought drenching rain and gusting winds to Pasco County and a price tag well over $100 million, in what could prove to be one of the costliest storms in the county’s history.
Homes in New Port Richey, Port Richey and Elfers sustained the worst damage. Those communities also suffered through flooding during strong summer rains in 2015.
Northeast and central Pasco mostly escaped the flooding and wind damage from Hermine, which later came ashore in the Panhandle as a hurricane.
However, a total of seven sinkholes opened across the county, including at locations in Lacoochee and Wesley Chapel.
Final numbers are not yet in, but county officials say just the physical damage to homes along could reach $89 million. Damage to public buildings could be as high as $50 million.
County officials are asking business owners to complete a business damage assessment survey to help calculate their losses.
At a Sept. 7 press conference, county officials gave an update on storm damage, and steps being taken to secure disaster aid for county residents.
“We are going to do what it takes to get you back on your feet,” said Pasco County Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey.
More than 2,600 homes were damaged, with 305 homes sustaining major damage from fallen trees or water covering electrical sockets.
More than 1,500 homes had minor damage; nearly 800 had some damage from downed trees or yard flooding.
Seven homes were destroyed, based on water rising above doorknobs or roofs and walls that caved in due to fallen tree limbs.
The Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point sustained about $3 million in damages and $10 million in lost revenues.
The hospital had to evacuate patients and close the hospital when lightning during the tropical storm sparked a fire.
After last year’s flooding, the county didn’t qualify for federal aid based on the amount of damage. However, damage from Hermine is well above the threshold that would qualify it for federal emergency status.
That will open opportunities for federal grants, said Kevin Guthrie, the county’s emergency management director.
But, he added, “This is not a quick moving process.”
In coming days, Guthrie said he expected additional reports to come in about storm damage.
Much of the data on damage so far was collected from county employees in the field, not from waiting for residents to phone, Guthrie said.
“We went out and found those homes,” he said.
County commissioners also were scheduled to discuss stormwater projects and stormwater maintenance at their Sept. 13 meeting, held after The Laker/Lutz News’ press time.
At the press conference, Starkey said the county needs to take another look at a proposed increase in the countywide stormwater fee.
That isn’t possible for 2017, but could be for 2018.
Commissioners increased the fee last year by $10 to a total of $57. They rejected a request in July from stormwater managers to consider an $80 annual fee effective in 2017. Commissioners stuck by the $57 fee in a close 3 to 2 vote. Starkey and Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano favored increasing the fee.
Pasco also is taking steps to help residents clean up debris, with a special schedule that began on Sept. 12. Pickups will be done seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., for the next several weeks.
Crews will complete runs north to south in the Aripeka area and south to north in the Anclote area. Requests for pickup should be made to the county’s customer service center.
Homeowners should place debris at curb or street side with items separated into separate piles for furniture, white goods (appliances etc.), construction materials and vegetation.
Initially crews will go out to assess the amount and types of materials that need pickup.
“It makes it easier for our folks to come along and know what kind of equipment they will need,” Guthrie said.
Business owners can participate in the damage assessment survey at PascoCountyFl.net.
Published September 14, 2016