Palm Harbor family braces for flooding as rain continues

Says county caused the problems and won't fix them
Posted at 6:54 PM, Aug 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-08 18:55:34-04

It was this time last year when Roy and Sandra Hurst's Palm Harbor home flooded. Several days of rain plus a high tide caused Bee Branch Creek to go over its banks. They were out of their home for three months.

Now, they're bracing for another potential flood.

"All of the curtains have to come up," Sandra Hurst said as she read off of a list of things to do if the water rises to a certain point. "I got bags ready for all of the pillows and blankets," she added. "I've already emptied that," she said as she pointed to a low cabinet.

The couple has 50 plastic bins filled and labeled with important items: A bin for the TV box and router, a bin for important documents, a bin for medication... A bin for just about everything.

"I've been praying a lot," she said.

The Hursts live along Bee Branch Creek. With heavy rains and a high tide, they know their home will flood. It's happened twice in the past decade.

But, they've lived in their home for the past 50 years. Before 2006, they only had one issue, and that was caused by a hurricane. The problem stems from development in Northern Pinellas County, which has diverted more water into the small creek.

Sandra Hurst said it comes from around 875 acres. They also claim there's been a lack of maintenance. The creek is filled with sand and silt. Sandra says the county used to dredge the creek, but stopped doing it several years ago. The Hursts also believe mangroves further down stream are overgrown, restricting water flow.

The couple has been contacting the county for years, but very little has been done.

County Commissioner Dave Eggers says he is working with staff to find a solution. The county may offer to buy the Hurst's property, which is not a popular solution with the home owners.

"We need to find a solution that helps the county and the homeowners," Eggers said.

Eggers says he's not sure short-term solutions like dredging or thinning mangroves will help, but says those ideas are being explored, adding that permitting for those activities take a while to complete.

Meanwhile, two more days of rain are in the forecast, leaving the Hurst family and several others who live along the creek holding their breath as flooding is likely inevitable.