NewsPinellas County


Flooded out families welcome Red Cross and wait for help following Tropical Storm Eta

Red Cross assessed 20 homes reported to have storm damage
Posted at 5:39 PM, Nov 13, 2020

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — White towels and beige blankets are hung to dry outside a St. Pete Beach home. They were not nearly enough to soak up all the water that stormed inside Sarah Casteel's home.

The storm surge was devastating for the family. On Wednesday night, Casteel recorded a video as she waded through the water inside her home.

RECOMMENDED: Tropical storm Eta leaves boats beached in Gulfport, businesses flooded out

“As you can hear I am walking in five inches of water at least," she said in the video.

In the video, you can see useless buckets and bins floating on top.

“I’m exhausted, I’m tired," she told ABC Action News. "Everything I’ve worked for is gone."

She expects she'll soon be able to smell the mold. At night, it’s even worse.

The family of seven — Sarah, her fiance, nine-year-old son, plus three dogs and a cat are forced to sleep on a wet mattress.

“I can’t get help, I can’t do anything. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what to do.”

Teams from the Tampa Bay Chapter Red Cross hit the roads on Friday to assess all the damage at around 20 new locations.

“You kind of have what we call compassion fatigue. You really just want to help everybody," said Linzy Wilson, Disaster Program Manager.

Wilson and Axl David, a disaster specialist, drove to home-after-home taking note of the damage and talking to victims about what comes next. Help could mean offering a family a Red Cross shelter or connecting them with resources for food and financial assistance.

“It's a great feeling," said Wilson. " These people think that they have nothing left and all of a sudden we arrive on the scene and we’re able to assist them.”

Outside a home in South Pasadena, they noticed a water line pointing to major damage inside.

“It’s frustrating when you work in disaster and you hear even your friends say ‘It’s only a tropical storm'," said Wilson. "Well, only a tropical storm just wrecked a bunch of sailboats that were people's homes and have caused major damage in some of these homes with the storm surge."

In Gulfport Thursday, residents discovered at least seven sailboats beached off Boca Ciega Bay, a product of the rough waves and heavy storm surge.

Over at Casteel’s home, Wilson and David paid attention to how high the water got. It can be a big worry even after it's dried up because of how it may mess up the electricity.

In Bradenton Beach Wednesday, a man got electrocuted after stepping into standing water.

RECOMMENDED: 1 dead after electrocution inside Manatee County home during Tropical Storm Eta

As fans run in every room to continue to dry the home, Casteel can only wait.

“A lot of people might not necessarily know we’re out there but we are," said Wilson.

The Red Cross gets to work eager to provide the help so many like Casteel are anxiously awaiting.