‘Evacuate now’: Officials urging residents living along Withlacoochee River to leave

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Hernando County emergency officials are urging residents living along the Withlacoochee River to get out immediately.  

A flood warning and voluntary evacuation order remain in effect for the area.

On Saturday morning, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office shut down Seven Springs northbound lanes at Jenner Avenue due to flooding.

Officials said they see the river moving swiftly and expect it to rise at least another two feet from where it is right now.

“At this point, I’m going to continue to urge all residents to take emergency protective measures. If you know that you’re in a low-lying area and subject to flooding, I urge you to move away to higher ground as soon as you can,” said Cecilia Patella, the director of Hernando County Emergency Management.

Some homes are already flooded and dozens of streets are blocked.

“It’s nerve-wracking, very very nerve-wracking,” Riverdale resident Angel Rousseau says.

She hasn’t slept well since Hurricane Irma and says her electricity was just restored after spending six days in the dark.

Park Drive outside Rousseau’s door is now flooded and she’s worried that the water could get into her home.

“It’s all just water, basically a big swimming pool in this neighborhood now,” Rousseau says.

Her grandfather, James Swanson is helping her pack so she could leave soon.

Swanson says the water hasn’t neared this level since four hurricanes swept through the area in 2004.

On Thursday, the river was at a moderate flood stage at 15.04 feet. It is forecasted to reach 17 feet by Monday morning and may rise later in the week.

“And so for your safety and the safety of first responders, we do have shelters available, so residents should try to move away from the area. First, of course, we suggest you stay with friends and family, but we do have shelter available in the event that you need it,” Patella said.

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