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Women prisoners evacuated in Hernando County

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 04:33 PM

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Tropical Storm Debby was so relentless it emptied a prison.

On Monday, as the rain kept falling and the floodwaters kept flowing, the women of Hernando Correctional Institution were bussed about 80 miles north to a Florida Department of Corrections facility in Lowell.

They were moved for safety reasons after water surrounded the Hernando prison walls and rose higher and higher outside the southwestern corner.

"There was a pretty good amount of flooding on the property," said department spokeswoman Ann Howard.

It remains to be seen when the 451 inmates will return. "We haven't been able to get in there to assess the damage, if any," said Howard. "We will take a better look after the water recedes."

A short distance to the east is the Hernando County Jail. The only damage reported there was a roof leak, but none of the inmates there have had to relocate, said Lt. Michael Burzumato, a sheriff's office spokesman.

The security level-two women's prison has more than 120 staffers, according to its website.

The warden, Roderick James, referred all calls to the agency's central office in Tallahassee.

The prison is at 16145 Spring Hill Drive. That portion of the four-lane road — from California Street to Mustang Drive — remained closed Wednesday because of standing water, according to the sheriff's office.

The facility was a men's prison in the 1950s. Since 1984, it has housed women under minimum and medium security. (352) 544-5283

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