By Matt Wiley

Parts of Pasco County, including Wesley Chapel, are now eligible for federal disaster assistance in the wake of Tropical Storm Debby.

According to Pasco County’s website, on July 3, U.S. President Barack Obama declared Florida a “major disaster area,” following a request by Gov. Rick Scott, allowing for help to flow through many Florida counties from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The federal assistance is to help those qualified residents in need with temporary housing, uninsured property loss and other disaster-related expenses. More information can be found at DisasterAssistance. com or by calling (800) 621-3362.

Parts of Wesley Chapel are still recovering from the effects of Debby, which sat on top of the Tampa Bay area for days, bringing with it a barrage of wind, rain, tornadoes and flooding.

From June 24-28, Wesley Chapel residents tried to go about their everyday lives as Debby swirled overhead, stalled just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Pasco County was one of the hardest hit counties in the state and the Pasco Board of County Commissioners issued a “Local State of Emergency” just a few hours before Gov. Scott declared a Level One State of Emergency for the entire state.

The National Weather Service (NWS) estimates that Debby dumped more than 15 inches of rain on the Bay area, with about 11 inches falling in Wesley Chapel and the surrounding areas of Pasco.

Along with the rain, Debby’s winds also caused severe power outages. A representative from the Tampa Electric Company (TECO) reported more than 20,000 customers without power during the storm’s peak.

Besides flooding, the most dangerous part of a tropical storm is the possibility of tornadoes, 11 of which have been reported so far across Tampa Bay, including one in northern New Tampa on June 24 that may have moved north into the Wesley Chapel area.

“I actually found out about it from someone sending me a link to your article on WCNeighborhoodNews. com,” says NWS meteorologist Dan Noah. “That’s how we go back after a storm to find out exactly how many (tornadoes) may have touched down; we work with the local media.”

Noah says that there was rotation in storm cells moving through that area all day on June 24 and that the NWS could have missed a few.

“The radar estimated that there could have been tornado development in that entire area,” he says. “We have 60 days to go back and find as many as possible before we publish a final report.”


Tornado In Grand Hampton

Mangled fencing and the remnants of the community clubhouse’s tennis shed decorated the tennis courts behind the clubhouse of the Grand Hampton community along County Line Rd. in New Tampa after a tornado touched down during Debby. Several residents of the Grand Hampton community reported numerous instances of damage from the now-confirmed tornado that touched down, or at least hovered above, the area during a tornado warning between 4 p.m.-5 p.m. on June 24.

The community clubhouse’s tennis courts, which were still surrounded by yellow caution tape and adorned with “Keep Out” signs when we visited a day later, hardly resembled a place to play tennis. The fence posts were sticking out at sharp angles or were bent in half and reaching for the ground. Residents report storm damage to at least a dozen homes in Grand Hampton after Debby entered our area.

One particular home, that the Wesley Chapel Neighborhood News editorial department saw first-hand (see photo on page 1), had its entire pool cage ripped to pieces and scattered across the backyard, with much of the debris landing either in the pool or in the adjacent vacant lot in one of the newer sections of Grand Hampton. The homeowner’s large, metal grill was still standing, but in the grass on the edge of the adjacent property.

The Grand Hampton Homeowners Association (HOA) would not release any details about how many homes had been damaged, what the estimated cost of that damage may have been or make any comment about whether or not a tornado actually touched down in the community.

Even after the tornado was confirmed by the NWS, we could not get a spokesperson for the Grand Hampton HOA to comment on the damage to the homes caused by Debby in that community.

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