New Port Richey residents still struggling with flooding
Gary Parks' shop is flooded, his office is flooded, and his street is impassable. But he set aside his frustrations Wednesday to allow himself a moment of levity. Parks, who operates a boat engine repair business out of his home at 7039 Aurora Drive in New Port Richey, quipped: "People associate boats and water. As simple as it seems, that's basically what I've gone through." Since Tropical Storm Debby flooded portions of the state at the end of June, Parks has had roughly eight inches to nearly four feet of water floating inside and around his business, Parks Marine Services."It'd be nice just to go out in my garage and do a day's work, you know what I mean," Parks said. "Make some money, not have to worry and just go through life, but I can't do that right now." Debby dumped nearly 15 inches of rain on Pasco County, mainly in the western portions of the region. That rainfall, which lasted for at least a week, forced water from the Anclote and Pithlachascotee rivers to flood neighborhoods in and around New Port Richey. More than 7,000 residents were affected, one man died. The body of David Glenn Huntley, 46, was found in the Anclote River just off Celtic Drive on June 28. President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster area for the state, allowing federal aid for victims. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened Disaster Relief Centers in the area, including one at Trouble Creek Square Shopping Center, 4444 Grand Blvd. in New Port Richey. The center is opened seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Sunday, the hours will change, opening at noon and closing at 6 p.m. Questions about obtaining small, low-interest disaster assistance loans, intended to help homeowners, renters, businesses, and nonprofit organizations can be answered. Victims can also be helped with filling out forms. According to Renee Bafalis, public information officer for FEMA, 1,681 people from Pasco County have contacted FEMA as of Tuesday. In that same period, 236 have visited the center on Grand Boulevard. The agency also has community relations members going door-to-door in some neighborhoods, including in Parks' neighborhood. "They're going door-to-door and making sure people who have had damages get registered (with FEMA) and they're also making sure people who are continuing to incur damages – from the flooding and the rain and the additional stuff – they needed to make sure they are also registered with FEMA because that incident period has not closed," Bafalis said. "As these storms continue to come through I think people are getting additional flooding," Bafalis said. Parks, who has lived in his home for about 13 years, said trouble with flooding in his neighborhood began with a beautification project. Old tree stumps were removed and a fence was put up. After that, water took longer to drain, he said. "Ever since that time, it's never been the same," he said. "Now that we've had heavy rains, it doesn't even purge anymore, it just lays there." He believes a simple fix would be to send a pumping truck into his neighborhood and suck the water out, dumping it into the nearby sewer system. Ed Caum, a spokesman for Pasco County, said officials are doing all that they can. They've dispersed all of their pumps and have "all the pumps they can possibly rent" in use as well. He said county workers have been attempting to alleviate flooding in Zephyrhills, Land O' Lakes as well as the places hardest hit by Debby. "The water just can't drain off," Caum said. "There's just too much water to drain. Areas that normally flood in the 10-year flood, that was flooded in Debby, are flooding again because water can't go anywhere." They've even run out of barricades to mark flooded roads, Caum added. "Our hearts go out to the people in those homes because some of them have been back and forth and back and forth," Caum said. "Our boots on the ground, our storm water guys are going out trying to give people information, but it's not what people want to hear because we can't fix the problem – you can't fix the problem when it's flooded." Ultimately, Parks just wants a sense of normalcy to return his neighborhood. "It's been a month," he said. "We've had a little bit of rain here and there, but nothing that was torrential. After Debby, it just doesn't go anywhere. It just lays there."
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