Pasco demolishing houses for flood relief

PORT RICHEY, Fla. -- It's hard to forget images of the flooding that took place in Pasco County over the past couple of years.

Months of unnamed storms in 2015 caused massive destruction. And then Hurricane Hermine dealt a second blow in 2016.

Now, in one of the hardest hit areas of Port Richey, they've started knocking down houses as part of a plan to save the rest of the neighborhood.

“It's going to be amazing when they're done with it,” said Sandra Walter, watching the house across from hers coming down Thursday.

Walter and her neighbors live in Holiday Hills, just off U.S. 19 in Port Richey.

“I'm hoping it's really good. I really do. I think it's going to help,” said Walter.

Pasco County has started demolishing the first of two houses they’ve already bought without having to use eminent domain. They’re in negotiations to buy more.

“I don't want to be too specific, because I don't want to impact the prices of the homes,” said Don Rosenthal, with Pasco’s County Services department.

Once they knock down the structures, officials plan to start digging, expanding a retention pond behind the demolished houses.

It’s the same pond that’s overflowed in Holiday Hills several times.

In 2015 4 feet of water forced Sandra Walter and her family to swim out a back window.

“Each one climbed out, retrieved the dog, and out we went,” she recalled.

When Hurricane Hermine struck a year later, it flooded again. Sewers backed up into people’s homes.

Flood water just sat for days. 

“I watched a guy canoe down the street. How bad is it, when you can watch somebody canoe down your street? Because there's so much water?” said Evan Chamberlin, whose house flooded badly.

“This is a river. We call it Stone River,” said Sharen Metts, pointing to the street in front of her house, “Because there is no drainage.”

Angry neighbors blamed Pasco County for not doing nearly enough to prepare or respond.

This demolition effort, say officials, is part of the answer. 

There’s still no word on when the digging will get done, but even without it, they think progress they’ve already made will do the job.

“It's just an enhancement of what we've done,” said Pasco Commissioner Jack Mariano. “I feel very confident just having the pipe in the ground and the pumps in place that we're in great shape.

“I'm hoping it's really good. I really do. I think it's going to help,” said Walter.

With an active storm season already underway, neighbors hope all of the improvements are made quickly.

The whole project is expected to cost a little over a million dollars.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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