Power out­ages, rain, res­cues

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Ta­mara Lush Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times

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 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.

Gov. Rick Scott said in Tal­la­has­see that about 18,000 homes and busi­nesses had lost power, mostly in hard-hit Mana­tee County.

Florida’s Divi­sion of Emer­gency Man­age­ment said the num­ber was down to 7,800 homes and busi­ness with­out power by Mon­day night, mostly in Mana­tee and Hills­bor­ough coun­ties.

Mana­tee County had 3,926 out­ages while Hills­bor­ough was at 1,362.

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 at any time.

State emer­gency man­age­ment of­fi­cials also said that the Sun­shine Sky­way Bridge over Tampa Bay, which was closed for a few hours be­cause of high winds, had 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 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 Coast Guard boat res­cued the men.

On Mon­day evening, Emily was mov­ing in­land over west-cen­tral Florida about 30 miles north­west of Se­bring. Fore­cast­ers said Emily was ex­pected to dump 2 to 4 inches of rain in some ar­eas, with iso­lated amounts up to 8 inches pos­si­ble in spots. Lesser amounts were pre­dicted else­where.

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-yearold 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.”

“This morn­ing was pretty bad. It rained pretty hard. I got a lit­tle leak in my Jeep even,” said Baker. But though the weather there had briefly im­proved at mid­day, he added, “we’re sup­posed to get hit again.”

A flood watch was 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 on a day that be­gan as a mis­er­able Mon­day morn­ing com­mute for many. 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.

Fore­cast­ers also warned of pos­si­ble iso­lated tor­na­does and off­shore wa­ter­spouts spin­ning off of the sys­tem, which sent swirling rain bands across parts of south Florida.

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