Emily weak­ens but still drenches Florida

No in­juries are re­ported, but two fish­er­men res­cued.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By Ta­mara Lush

Trop­i­cal Storm Emily weak­ened to a trop­i­cal de­pres­sion Mon­day af­ter­noon as it slogged east­ward across the Florida penin­sula, spread­ing drench­ing rains, caus­ing power out­ages and leav­ing two fish­er­men to be res­cued from Tampa Bay.

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said Emily made land­fall late Mon­day on Florida’s Gulf Coast south of Tampa Bay and then be­gan mov­ing east to­ward the At­lantic coast. Emily spent only a few hours as a trop­i­cal storm, los­ing strength as it marched in­land across the cen­tral Florida penin­sula to­ward the At­lantic coast.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at an af­ter­noon news brief­ing in the state cap­i­tal of Tal­la­has­see that about 18,000 homes and busi­nesses lost power, mostly in hard-hit Mana­tee County. Scott, who was on va­ca­tion in Maine and re­turned to the state when the ad­vi­sory changed, said the storm was a re­minder that se­vere weather can strike the state at any time.

State emer­gency man­age­ment of­fi­cials also said that the Sun­shine Sky­way Bridge over Tampa Bay, which was closed for a few hours Mon­day be­cause of high winds, had since re­opened. The storm had max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 45 mph as it crawled ashore but was down to top winds of 35 mph hours later.

No in­juries have been re­ported along the Gulf Coast, al­though two fish­er­men were res­cued from Tampa Bay while cling­ing to a chan­nel marker light af­ter their boat sank.

Coast Guard of­fi­cials said they were called Mon­day morn­ing about the two broth­ers, who had been out fish­ing when their boat en­gine died. While the broth­ers worked on the in­op­er­a­ble pump, the boat drifted and struck the range light, ac­cord­ing to a Coast Guard state­ment. The broth­ers tied their boat off to the light and were forced to cling to the nav­i­ga­tion aid and call for help when the ves­sel sank. A boat from Coast Guard sta­tion St. Peters­burg res­cued the men.

Fore­cast­ers said Emily was ex­pected to dump be­tween 2 to 4 inches of rain in some ar­eas, with iso­lated amounts up to 8 inches pos­si­ble in spots.

On Trea­sure Is­land, a bar­rier is­land in the Gulf of Mex­ico west of St. Peters­burg, a nor­mally packed beach park­ing lot was al­most empty of tourists Mon­day. Only a hand­ful of peo­ple were on the white sand beach and a few body­surfed small waves in an area that doesn’t nor­mally get waves. Some took self­ies amid a mix of clouds and patches of blue sky on the north­ern fringe of the storm sys­tem.

Kevin Baker, a 53-year-old re­tiree who takes his walks daily at Trea­sure Is­land, said he de­cided to ven­ture out de­spite the storm “to watch the clouds to go by.”

A flood watch is in ef­fect for much of the Tampa area, rais­ing the threat of some scat­tered street flood­ing in low-ly­ing ar­eas. Law en­force­ment agen­cies urged mo­torists to drive with cau­tion. A few Tampa area com­mu­ni­ties, such as Pinel­las Park and Tar­pon Springs, of­fered res­i­dents sand­bags to stave off any flood­ing.

Ear­lier Mon­day, Scott de­clared a state of emer­gency for 31 of the state’s 67 coun­ties as a pre­cau­tion. He also headed to the state’s Emer­gency Op­er­a­tions Cen­ter for a brief­ing on the storm and is­sued a news re­lease urg­ing those in the path of the storm to be vig­i­lant.


Dar­celle Ja­cobs and her dog, Skit­tles, check out the flood­ing on their street Mon­day in Fort Myers Beach, Fla. Trop­i­cal Storm Emily made land­fall late Mon­day south of Tampa Bay

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