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Despite Flooding And Water Rescues, Tropical Storm Eta Largely Spares Tampa Bay Area

Boats and debris off Bayshore Boulevard in Safety Harbor early Thursday
Carl Lisciandrello
WUSF Public Media
Boats and debris off Bayshore Boulevard in Safety Harbor early Thursday

Tropical Storm Eta made landfall near Cedar Key in north Florida early Thursday. Many coastal areas and neighborhoods along rivers continue to see flooding.

Rain continued to stream into much of the Tampa Bay area, even as Tropical Storm Eta exits Florida.

Eta made landfall near Cedar Key around 4 a.m. Thursday. The storm surge was 3 to 4 feet in many areas around Tampa Bay. Bay News 9 is reporting that water levels continue to be high due to an onshore wind this morning

The highest rainfall was recorded along the Gulf coast in Pinellas and Manatee counties, with some areas getting more than 7 inches.

Cars driving through Shore Acres street flooding
St. Petersburg Police Department
Streets were flooded in the Shore Acres area of St. Petersburg on Nov. 12, 2020.
Why Tropical Storm Eta Caught Florida's Gulf Coast Off-Guard
Meteorologists say it's harder to track tropical storms than major hurricanes because other forces in the atmosphere can easily change their paths. That's what happened with Eta this week.
Eta satellite image

Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies deployed High Water Rescue Teams and used boats and high water vehicles to rescue 33 people from homes and roadways, as well as helping in several rescues from vehicles trapped by high water.

Most of the rescues occurred in the area from Pass-a-Grille in south St. Pete Beach north to Madeira Beach. Those rescued were taken to area hotels or other shelters.

No injuries are reported to any citizens or deputies as a result of the rescues.

Debris is strewn across the Courtney Campbell Trail, forcing it to close on Nov. 12, 2020.
City of Clearwater
Debris is strewn across the Courtney Campbell Trail, forcing it to close for part of on Nov. 12, 2020.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reports it received more than 100 storm-related calls, mainly involving street flooding, downed power lines, and power outages that impacted several traffic lights.

Duke Energy was reporting 18,000 customers without power in Pinellas and 5,000 in Pasco County on Thursday morning. In Hillsborough and Pasco counties, Tampa Electric reported 2,340 customers without power overnight. That number had been reduced to about 1,600 customers shortly before 11 a.m.

As many as 36,000 homes were without power across the Tampa Bay area overnight.

Flood warnings are in effect for the Little Manatee River at Wimauma at US 301 and the Alafia River at Lithia at Lithia Pinecrest Road in Hillsborough County; Manatee River near Myakka Head at State Road 64 in Manatee County; and the Peace River At Zolfo Springs at State Road 17 in Hardee County.

In Venice, Humphris Park and the South Jetty walkway in Venice remain closed because the parking lot and walkway sustained damage from Eta's storm surge.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is reporting The National Weather Service has said a person was fatally electrocuted after storm surge water entered their home on Bradenton Beach.

In Pasco County, all county government offices and services will be open for regular business hours Thursday, with the following exceptions:

  • All Pasco County Parks will be open Thursday; however, some openings could be delayed due to storm debris clean-up efforts.
  • Pasco County Libraries will open Thursday at noon.
  • Pasco County Public Transportation services are expected to resume Thursday, as long as road conditions are safe to do so.
  • Pasco County Schools will be closed Thursday and are expected to reopen Friday.
  • Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller will be closed Thursday.

Here are some tips for dealing with flooding:

  • Avoid driving in high winds and heavy rains.
  • Don't drive through moving or standing water. Water that is 2 feet deep can disable most vehicles.
  • Treat non-functioning traffic signals as a four-way stop.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and cables. Do not attempt to drive over or around lines; they may be live.
  • If power goes out, use flashlights and camping lights instead of candles.
  • Never use a generator inside a home, basement, shed, or garage, even if doors and windows are open. Position generators outdoors far away from windows, doors, and vents. Read both the label on your generator and the owner's manual and follow the instructions.
  • Avoid plugging emergency generators into electric outlets or hooking them directly to your home's electrical system - they can feed electricity back into the power lines, putting you and line workers in danger.
Parts of a pier and debris along Bayshore Boulevard in Safety Harbor
Carl Lisciandrello/WUSF Public Media
Parts of a pier washed onshore in Safety Harbor, and debris lay strewn across Bayshore Boulevard on Nov. 12, 2020.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.