Pasco Co. looks toward flood prevention

Aaron Mesmer reports

- One week after Hurricane Hermine, parts of Pasco County were still underwater as emergency management officials released instructions about debris collection.

Crews will begin picking up debris Monday, Sept. 12 and will continue doing so seven days a week until it's no longer necessary. The items must be separated into specific categories, as listed on Pasco County's website.

Emergency Services Director Kevin Guthrie explained why it's important to begin this process now.

"We want to get it off the street as quickly as possible. We want to return this community back to normalcy as quickly as possible," he said during a news conference Friday. "The longer a community waits to get back to normal, the more people will move out of that community. Pasco wants to be the premier county in the state of Florida, so what we want to do is we want show our residents we are premier. We want people to say, 'those guys know what they're doing and they know how to respond to a disaster. I want to live there because I feel safe.'" 

A day earlier, all mandatory evacuations were lifted, leaving only the Bass Lake community under a voluntary evacuation.

Also on Monday, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency will join local leaders for a round of damage assessment tours. Guthrie, however, advised homeowners to have reasonable expectations about what FEMA might be able to provide.

"The average payout for a Florida resident in a disaster from FEMA is 6,000 dollars," Guthrie said, adding homeowners need to rely more on their insurer than the federal government. "FEMA is not going to be coming out and handing out Red Cross debit cards and things like that. Those days are over."

Guthrie said the county would benefit more from a federal disaster declaration than individual homeowners; it would allow Pasco to be eligible for about a half dozen recovery grants that could be used to improve infrastructure or to buy flood-prone homes and demolish or elevate them.  

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