Pasco flood victims apply for aid and clean up debris

11:41 PM, Jul 4, 2012   |    comments
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The home of Mark Gresham is in full clean up mode due to the flooding from Debby
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NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - It wasn't the Fourth of July many residents were planning on this year. Tropical Storm Debby made a mess of things over the last two weeks. There's been massive flooding, raw sewage, and frustrated homeowners.

But there is finally some relief for Pasco flooding victims. The water is receding, and federal aid is available.

Homeowner Irene Fields told 10 News, "I'm glad it's going down, glad going down. Not looking forward to the clean up."

The water in the hardest hit areas like Cameo Drive and Sunrise Lane has gone down considerably. A road once underwater is now mostly dry. 10 News worked as an advocate for local residents putting pressure on the county to clear debris so that flood waters could recede.

Resident Kim Proebster is thankful. "We appreciate everything you guys have done. Channel 10 has gone the extra mile and that's where it began."

Fields agreed. "You guys reporting this for us, it's great. It's help, any little help. [We're] grateful for anything."

After our story aired, port-a-potties were brought in, along with a place for residents to wash their hands in clean water. But even though the flooding levels are lower, emotions are still running high.

Fields said with a sigh, "Feels like a different day to me. Usually we've got family coming over, I'm baking, and we're barbecuing. We're not doing any of that. [We're] stuck in the house, one day at a time."

For these residents, this holiday is all about cleanup and filing for federal aid since President Obama declared Pasco and other Florida counties as disaster areas. Federal money will now be available for temporary housing, home repairs, and low-cost loans, although the White House did not say how much cash Florida would receive.

"We have a lot of stuff to be thrown out. I could fill a dumpster twice," Fields said.

While the cleanup will be massive, residents were thrilled to hear that aid is now available. "It was great. Wow! We were declared a disaster area, Pasco County itself! We are in bad shape here," Fields told 10 News.

The county will now pick up debris starting Thursday. Officials are encouraging residents to place the debris at the curb for pickup.

With the President's declaration Tuesday, Pasco, along with Baker, Bradford, Columbia, and Wakulla counties, can receive federal assistance -- including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and low-cost loans to cover individuals and business owners. Pinellas is also included in that list.

FEMA is currently assessing the damage in other areas and may add more counties, which could result in additional federal assistance to those who qualify.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance Wednesday by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired.