With minimal damage reported, flood-prone communities look to water levels as Elsa moves north
TAMPA, Florida – Heavy downpours from then-era Hurricane Elsa hit southern and interior counties of Central Florida overnight, as coastal communities and low lying areas still braced for a possible storm surge this morning. However, as visitors and residents woke up, many said it appeared the Tampa Bay area had dodged a bullet.
As the storm passed on Wednesday morning, the winds from Tropical Storm Elsa began to change, maintaining the threat of storm surges and flooding – especially after interior sections of Sarasota, Manatee, Highlands, counties, Charlotte and Desoto received nearly 10 inches of rain.
Prior to Elsa’s arrival on Tuesday, Pinellas County restricted access to the barrier islands, but those restrictions were lifted at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday. During the night, only hotel guests, workers along Gulf Boulevard, and residents were allowed access.
County emergency officials have been monitoring the storm overnight and have received reports of standing water in Tarpon Springs and Clearwater, but are awaiting reports from residents.
“It’s better than we expected,” said Dave Connor, a county spokesperson. “So far most of the damage we have heard seems to be in the northern part of the county. We are waiting and have our ears open to the people of the county to understand where they see damage that we may not have. not be found yet. “
Residents of Pinellas County can submit damage reports here: storm.pinellascounty.org.
In Gulfport, as in other coastal communities, water was the main concern, but locals woke up with a sigh of relief. Its waterfront tends to be flooded, much like the Eta River barely eight months ago. Tuesday night, most businesses have tarps and sandbags on their doors. City officials say 7,500 sandbags have been distributed in the past four days.
However, other than a few puddles here and there, there was no flooding as locals woke up on Wednesday morning. The high tide overnight went without any flooding, but city officials will still keep an eye out for storm surge potential during the day.
In Hillsborough County, there have been reports of downed trees, including one that landed on top of a vehicle as a driver ventured out around 4.30am. MPs said the driver was not injured.
Sheriff Chad Chronister reported minimal impacts and now concern turns to the storm surge.
“You know what, no one was hurt. The calls for service were moderate,” he told FOX 13. “I’m a very happy man this morning. I think it showed us all that we are prepared, ”said Sheriff Chronister. “We take these rehearsals very seriously.”
Thousands of people have woken up without power in the county, and most have been caused by wind damage, according to the sheriff. He said there were still dangerous conditions and advised against driving if you don’t have to be on the roads.
“These areas… Town ‘N’ Country all the way to Odessa where it’s already so saturated, I’m worried about the flooding there,” Sheriff Chronister explained. “This is the first warning, standing water. Don’t drive through. It’s hard to gauge its depth.”
Although there have been no reports of flooding, outdoor bands are still moving Wednesday morning.
“This storm surge is starting to start with this high tide coming in, that’s what worries me,” he said.
Meanwhile, along the Anclote River in Pasco County, the area saw bands of rain overnight, but the water level did not rise and no significant flooding was reported on Wednesday. morning.
As the day progresses, authorities will keep an eye on areas prone to flooding, as it takes some time for rivers to swell after a downpour.
Further south, city officials in the hardest hit North Port were inspecting flooded roads. A wide swath of south-central Florida received more than 9 inches of rain, according to radar estimates. With the ground already saturated with this summer’s rains, much of the cool rains still remained in the streets and courtyards.