Local Effort provides Help for Hurricane Hermine Damages

Last Thursday, Florida’s Nature Coast narrowly missed a direct hit by Hurricane Hermine. Still, a lot of damage was done to coastal areas. In fact, Governor Rick Scott toured Pasco County damages and declared a State of Emergency. US 19 and Yulee Drive in Citrus County were shown on the evening news with over two feet of flooding to residences and businesses along the roads. In Hernando County, the Hernando Beach, Pine Island and Weeki Wachee Gardens areas were also hit with 50 mph winds and torrential rains.

A tornado warning was issued for the entire NatureCoaster area and several people reported seeing them through Facebook.

Meanwhile, a group of local residents spearheaded by Erin Daly, State Prosecutor for the 5th Judicial Court, organized help for those affected by the storm. On Sunday and Monday volunteers gathered at the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Hernando Beach and began knocking on doors to see what their neighbors needed.

The West Hernando County community gathered at the Hernando Beach Coast Guard in force to help neighbors in Operation Hernando Gut & Dump.
The West Hernando County community gathered at the Hernando Beach Coast Guard in force to help neighbors in Operation Hernando Gut & Dump.

“We took stock of our home, made quick repairs, and went next door to see how our neighbors fared,” Erin explained when I asked how this operation began. “On Saturday we began calling people to organize ‘Operation Hernando Gut & Dump’ to go door-to-door, comforting and providing aid to residents affected by Hermine.”

Tracie Maler and Sandra Day were two of the people Erin called. They both own local businesses and had storm damage and they were quick to assist and spread the word that help is needed.

Sunday, September 4, On Labor Day, Hernando County Commissioners Diane Rowden and Nick Nicholson came out to help and helped to get the Westside Disposal Unit open and curbside pickup of debris for the area. Several other political officials came out to help, including Blaise Ingoglia, Diane Greenwell, Shirley Anderson and their spouses. Other political officials were involved.

Erin Daly and Diane Rowden discuss the best way to assist Hurricane Hermine victims before heading out to do the work.
Erin Daly and Diane Rowden discuss the best way to assist Hurricane Hermine victims before heading out to do the work.

I went out to report on the effort Labor Day morning. Approximately 50 people were assembled to help. Central High School’s Navy ROTC students were there. Politicians, residents, the Hernando County Emergency Management Coordinator, Rich Russell, and the Red Cross brought tools, equipment and clean up kits to help.

Sandra Day, of the Day Law Office, started a GoFundMe page for those who have been displaced by the hurricane. You can contribute at https://www.gofundme.com/2n7estfd. The fund is over $7,500 of its $10,000 goal. If you can help with any amount, that would be wonderful.

“Those who are most affected by these things tend to be the elderly who own their homes and may have foregone flood insurance. They can lose everything and may not have family nearby to help,” Sandra explained.

Shirley Laderoot’s family has owned her home on the Weeki Wachee River for 75 years. Her daughter and caretaker, Nikki Boykin shared that this home is where Shirley took care of her grandparents, parents and Nikki’s father. Today, Nikki takes care of Shirley there. “It’s been a lifetime of caretaking,” she stated about their home.

Shirley Laderoot's family home of 75 years was invaded by 3 1/2 feet of water, destroying their furniture, appliances, and the home's walls, carpets and electrical systems.
Shirley Laderoot’s family home of 75 years was invaded by 3 1/2 feet of water, destroying their furniture, appliances, and the home’s walls, carpets and electrical systems.

“At first, the water crept up and then every ten minutes, it was a couple inches. By the time I got my momma out, the water was up to her knees. She uses a walker,” Nikki said, “Two cats, two Chihuahuas, and an African Grey Parrot – and my momma. I found places for them to stay after Motel 6 kicked us out for having too many pets in a room.”

Nikki went through Hurricane Katrina. “I need to get a washer and a dryer out there because I need to do the family quilts. The mildew will start creeping in,” she said. Her mother’s furniture, carpet and appliances are ruined. The electricity and walls will need at least repair, and possibly replacement.

Zig Zag Scallop, a Hernando Beach restaurant, held a community barbecue September 6 for many of the volunteers. They are selling chances to win restaurant gift certificates and will hold a benefit Friday evening to help raise funds for those who are homeless.

Hernando Beach residents and local volunteers work together to clean up residential debris.
Hernando Beach residents and local volunteers work together to clean up residential debris.

Contractor trash bags, Exacto knives, pry bars and chalk lines are needed and can be dropped off at the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, the Day Law Office or KELLER WILLIAMS® Spring Hill.

Another Community Workday will be held Saturday, September 10. Please meet up at the Hernando Beach Coast Guard building at 9 am. Families are welcome and children may help with outdoor debris removal.

A Facebook Page has been set up for connecting those seeking help with those seeking to donate. It is here: https://www.facebook.com/OperationHernandoGutAndDump/