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Debris pickup ongoing in hard-hit Tampa Bay areas from Hurricane Idalia

Major disaster declarations have been approved from areas as far north as Citrus and Hernando counties and as far south as Pinellas County

WEEKI WACHEE GARDENS, Fla. — Clean-up and debris pick-up is ongoing in hard-hit areas of Tampa Bay from Hurricane Idalia.

Several counties are still recovering from flooding and damage from the storm in the area from the Shore Acres neighborhood in St. Petersburg to communities around Weeki Wachee. Debris and trash pickup began in the last week in areas like Citrus and Hernando counties, but more progress needs to be made for some.

"I was shocked. I knew we were gonna have a little wind but it came so fast here," Summer Newmann of Palm Grove Colony, a neighborhood in Weeki Wachee Gardens, described the storm.

Remnants of the hurricane still remain as more dirt and debris sit in front of people's yards ready for pick-up, along with beds, couches and all sorts of cabinets no longer of use.

However, Newmann explained most of the debris has been hauled off due to efforts from the community to help each other out. 

"Everybody's family around here. That's what's so special. You hardly see a house for sale because no one wants to leave the neighborhood," Newmann said.

Those like Trisa Ellis said she spent part of the day shopping for new furniture. Walls need to be repaired and belongings had to be thrown out as a result of the storm, Ellis explained.

Her family moved from Colorado during the pandemic and said it was their first time having experienced flooding from a hurricane.

"We still would not trade this life for anything," Ellis said. "There's a price for paradise."

In Pasco and Hernando counties, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is now reimbursing for the collection, but local leaders said time is of the essence to get that debris to the curb. Both for the federal funds and public health.

“That wood, that drywall, that carpeting, that flooring is all going to turn into mold. Mildew. It will start to deteriorate and smell, and we just want to clean it up as fast as we can for the residents to make it as safe as possible for them,” Hernando County Emergency Management Director David DeCarlo said.

While just about every area is picking up debris, some are handling it differently when it comes to hazardous materials.

If you have paint, chemicals, batteries and those sorts of things that need to be disposed of, check with your individual county to see whether they'll be picking up those materials as well or whether you need to bring them to them.

Earlier last week, the Crystal River mayor said it'll take a couple of rounds before the city can remove all the debris brought curbside. It'll take businesses and homeowners weeks to recover, possibly longer if there are delays from insurance. 

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