Just before taking a brief tour of areas damaged by Tropical Storm Debby-related flooding on the western side of Pasco County Friday, Gov. Rick Scott said authorities are tallying up the damage Debby did in communities across the state to determine if Florida qualifies for federal aid.
“We’re going to do everything we can to help each community across our state get back to work as quickly as possible,” he said to the press after a briefing at the Pasco emergency operations center, where Scott questioned officials about the impact of Debby.
He said the state is starting assessments with the federal government today, and he is looking at assistance programs available to the the state.
“Your heart goes out to these families,” Scott said of those impacted by the storm.
When asked by a reporter if the state is looking at federal assistance, Scott responded:
“If you guessed today, looking at the impact across the state, you’d say, ‘Yes.”'
However, he said that will be determined through a damage assessment process that the state is working on, and the state will look at what percentage the state covers and what percentage the federal government covers.
"We'll see what we can do," he said.
Scott declared a State of Emergency in Florida earlier this week, and Pasco County officlasls also declared a local state of emergency. There are 20 teams assessing damage throughout the state, said Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The state will coordinate with FEMA to see if numbers match up. He said numbers should be finalized next week.
The county is coordinating its assessment efforts with cities like New Port Richey, said Annette Doying, emergency management director for Pasco. The county is moving from responding to the storm to recovering from it.
So are residents.
“They’ll be recovering from it for months,” she said.
During a briefing at the operations center, Scott was informed about the impact of the flood.
There are 19 people in shelters still because their houses are uninhabitable, three of whom have special needs, Doying said. There are also two cats.
There are hundreds of homes inundated with flood water from “a few inches to a few feet,” she said. At least 53 single family homes received major damage, according to early county estimates. The Sweetbay at Rowan Road and State Road 54 was flooded two-thirds up the window and lost inventory, she said, and small businesses were impacted.
More than 7,000 residences and business in Pasco County have been impacted in Pasco County. An evacuation was ordered in West Passco earlier this week due to flooding between the Pithlachascotee and Anclote Rivers, and a voluntary evacuation was ordered at Harborview Mobile Home Park in New Port Richey. Both evacuations have been rescinded.
However, there are mobile home parks in Pasco that are sill evacuated, and there will be homes lost.
The county’s most recent estimate totals damage to public infrastructure was $4 million. On Tuesday, it estimated that $1.5 million damage was done to businesses and residences, but that number is bound to rise.
“We’re going to see many people that are underinsured, and they’re going to be looking to the government,” Doying told Scott.
“And you know and I know that’s not going to be an easy thing to do,” she said.
The number of underinsured includes public employees, she said. She's one of them.
Scott later toured places impacted by the storm, including Seven Springs Travel Park, which was evacuated, and Susie’s Too in the 54 area, which closed for three days after its parking lot flooded. He got out of his car in those places.
He also went to Elfers, which is near the Anclote River. The water in the river is usually between 6 and 10 feet high. On Tuesday, it peaked at 27.4 feet. On Friday, it was at 20 feet.
A group of residents gathered at the corner of one street, but Scott did not get out of his vehicle.
“The scary part is this is the earliest we’ve ever had a “D” name for a tropical storm name,” he said during the press conference before the tour. “Hopefully we won’t have anything else this year.”
Folks are being urged to log their damage with the county at pascocountyfl.net to help with the damage assessment process.