Florida’s west coast takes hit from Eta
The tropical storm brings some flooding but no major damage
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tropical Storm Eta dumped torrents of blustery rain on Florida’s west coast as it moved over the state after making landfall north of the heavily populated Tampa Bay area Thursday morning, triggering some flooding but no major damage.
The storm slogged ashore near Cedar Key, about 100 miles northwest of Tampa, and moved northeast across the state, according to the National Weather Service in Miami. Its maximum winds had fallen by afternoon to 40 mph and it was about 40 miles northeast of Jacksonville.
Although it was not the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. this year, Eta still had broad impact across the Tampa Bay region and was linked to at least one death there.
In Bradenton Beach,
Mark Mixon stepped into his flooded garage as he was laying sandbags around his home on Wednesday evening and was electrocuted, said Jacob Saur, director of public safety for Manatee County. There were appliances plugged into the garage and Mixon was killed when he stepped into the water, Saur said.
Rescue crews had to wait for Florida Power and Light, which was responding to outages from the storm, to shut down power in the neighborhood where Mixon lived before they could assist, Saur said.
There were no other reports of any injuries or serious damage.
The storm did force closure of some lanes of Tampa Bay bridges because of storm surge but they were reopening Thursday. Also reopening was the Sunshine Skyway
Bridge, which links Pinellas and Manatee counties.
J.P. Brewer, owner of Salty’s Gulfport, was cleaning up after her beachside restaurant flooded Thursday morning.
“I’ve been here almost eight years and we’ve never had water damage,” Brewer said. “This is the worst I’ve seen.”
Several sailboats broke free from their moorings and washed ashore in Gulfport, including the vessel where Mo Taggart has lived for two years with her dog. She thinks the boat is a total loss.
“I mean, it was disaster,” Taggart said. “I came out here. My boat’s just up against the seawall, just smashing, smashing. ... I need to get another boat. I want to be back on the water, [my dog] wants to be back on the water.”
Firefighters in Tampa rescued around a dozen people who got stuck in storm surge flooding on Bayshore Boulevard adjacent to the bay.
The storm had meandered in the Gulf of Mexico since crossing over South Florida on Sunday.
The Tampa Bay region is home to more than 3.5 million people across five coastal counties. No mandatory evacuations were ordered, but authorities opened shelters for anyone needing them. Only a handful of people showed up.
The storm prompted school closures. Tampa International Airport closed Wednesday afternoon but was back in operation early Thursday. A coronavirus testing site at Tropicana Field was also closed Wednesday.
President Donald Trump approved a federal emergency declaration for 13 counties along or near the Gulf Coast, adding them to South Florida counties the storm struck previously.
Eta first hit Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane and killed at least 120 people in Central America and Mexico. It moved into the Gulf of Mexico early Monday.