Saturday 3 December 2016

Tropical Storm Colin leaves after dumping rain in Florida

Published 07/06/2016 | 17:36

Beachgoers get caught in a sudden downpour when a band associated from Tropical Storm Colin came ashore at Clearwater Beach (AP)
Beachgoers get caught in a sudden downpour when a band associated from Tropical Storm Colin came ashore at Clearwater Beach (AP)

Tropical Storm Colin has headed out to sea after dropping heavy rains from Florida to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, flooding roads and causing power outages, especially in the Sunshine State.

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Tropical storm warnings have been dropped for most of the south-east coast, with the only area still affected ranging from Cape Lookout to near Nags Head. The National Hurricane Centre said that warning was likely to be dropped on Tuesday.

Earlier, the storm was moving into the Atlantic off the North Carolina coast, with maximum sustained winds up to 60mph, the US National Hurricane Centre reported.

Forecasters said up to another one inch to two inches of rain could fall along the Outer Banks, with up to three more inches of rain in central Florida.

The Hurricane Centre said Colin marked the earliest that a third named storm has ever formed in the Atlantic basic.

In Dare County, North Carolina, which includes pencil-thin territories from Kitty Hawk down to Hatteras Island, Emergency Management director Drew Pearson said rain had been falling nearly continuously since last week's Tropical Storm Bonnie but that, so far, major flooding had not impacted the area.

"We're really just seeing large amounts of water," Mr Pearson said, noting that many roads in the Outer Banks are at sea level, meaning that they can be quickly impacted by heavy rains, but adding that traffic may be slow but had not been stopped anywhere.

Mr Pearson said he expected skies to clear along the Outer Banks, good news for tourists who have flocked there for early summer holidays.

"We anticipate conditions to improve over the day," he said. "Don't let it ruin your day."

Schools in Wilmington, North Carolina, opened two hours later than usual because of the weather.

In Florida, a survey team was investigating a possible tornado related to the storm that damaged homes and toppled trees on Jacksonville's west side.

On Georgia's Tybee Island, Susie Morris said she awoke on Tuesday to no wind and no rain at the Lighthouse Inn Bed & Breakfast.

"I certainly don't have any flooding whatsoever, thank goodness," said Ms Morris, the proprietor of the inn, a restored 1910 home that was once part of the former Fort Screven military outpost created around the time of the Spanish American War in the 1890s.

Lifeguards on the island posted red flags on the beach to warn swimmers of rip currents and two- to three-foot breakers.

Along the Georgia coast, the marshes did their job and acted as "a big sponge system" as Colin passed over, said Tim Cutting, who runs fishing charters from his base on St Simons Island.

"The marsh does what it's supposed to do naturally - it drains and floods like it has done for a million years," Mr Cutting said.

The National Weather Service reported that about 2.7 inches of rain fell at McKinnon St Simons Island Airport as the storm passed over the area. About four inches of rain fell at the Liberty County airport near Hinesville.

Up to three inches of rain fell near Topsail Beach, north-east of Wilmington, while the coastal North Carolina city itself received 1.75 inches. More than two inches fell at Pawleys Island in South Carolina.

Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency as Colin moved across the state, dumping nine inches of rain in parts of Pinellas County along Florida's Gulf Coast.

Flood warnings were issued in many parts of the Tampa Bay area and Tuesday's commute was a difficult one with some roads underwater.

Mr Scott cautioned that the state has seen severe flooding in unlikely places after previous storms.

"We'll just see how well it runs off," Scott said. "I always remember back to (Tropical Storm) Isaac in 2012, it went west but we had unbelievable flooding in Palm Beach County."

No significant problems were reported in South Carolina, with a handful of roads closed in Charleston and near the Georgia-South Carolina state line.

The high winds and rain also knocked out power to about 10,000 Floridians heading into Monday evening from Tampa Bay to Jacksonville.

On Georgia's Tybee Island, Ms Morris said she would continue to pay close attention to weather reports for the remainder of this year's hurricane season, which runs through November 30.

Press Association

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