Forecaster: Manatee can expect storm surge of one to three feet

Herald staff writersAugust 26, 2012 

MANATEE -- Tropical Storm Isaac could produce a storm surge that threatens some low-lying residents and adding stress to Anna Maria Island beaches already eroded by a storm earlier this summer.

"The beaches are going to be a bit compromised again," Steve Simpson, operations chief at the Manatee County Emergency Operations Center, which was taken to a reduced alert level as Isaac remains over the Gulf of Mexico on track towards somewhere on the upper Gulf coast.

Tyler Fleming, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin, said Manatee County can expect a storm surge of one to three feet.

“With all the water piling up we can expect to see strong rip currents at least through Wednesday,” he said.

Even if the sun comes out it may not be safe to go swimming, Fleming said.

“Pay attention to any signs posted at the beach,” he said. “Rip currents are a very deadly threat.”

So far, most of the heavy rain due to Tropical Storm Isaac has been in central Florida, according to Fleming.

The storm can bring hours of moderate to heavy rain and occasional dry hours with not much rain, he said.

Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to reach Louisiana by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning as a Category 1 hurricane.

As of 8 a.m., the Florida West Coast from Tarpon Springs southward -- including Manatee and Sarasota -- remained under a tropical storm warning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The Weather Service said there is a 100 percent chance of rain in Bradenton Monday as tropical storm conditions remain possible. Forecasters were calling for east-southeasterly winds of 28 to 33 mph, with gusts as high as 47 mph.

Monday night, the chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms drops to 50 percent, according to the Weather Service.

An earlier tornado watch has been lifted, but several river flood warnings remain in effect, including on the Manatee River at Myakka Head, and the Myakka River at Myakka River State Park.

As of 8 a.m., the Hurricane Center said Isaac was continuing to move west-northwestward toward the northern Gulf Coast, which was under various watches and warnings.

The storm was located about 185 miles west-southwest of Fort Myers, or 360 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The maximum winds were 65 mph, and it was moving west-northwest at 14 mph.

As of Monday morning there were a total of 20 people in shelters at Manatee High School and Nolan Middle School, and as of 6 a.m. fewer than 10 customers were without power, Simpson said.

County government announced Monday morning that the shelters would close at 11 a.m.

Also, trolley service on Anna Maria Island will not be available until further notice.

Also, all bridges in Manatee County remain closed for vessel traffic.

Garbage pick-up will resume on Tuesday, the county said.

As of 10:30 a.m., vessel traffic at Port Manatee remained closed following direction of the port’s Coast Guard captain, said Jill VanderPol, communications manager for Port Manatee.

Tenant operations at the port are open Monday, she said.

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Manatee County began feeling the effects of Tropical Storm Issac about 3 p.m. Sunday.

Intermittent tropical winds with bands of heavy rain and surge impact estimates of 3 – 5 feet could continue through 2 p.m. Monday.

Tropical storm winds can carry a 39 – 58 mph punch. During sustained winds in excess of 40 mph, high-profile vehicles are discouraged from traveling on the roadways.

"Such vehicles include those used by emergency services. Residents are encouraged to stay indoors and off the road," county officials said.

All MCAT buses, including regular routes,the Island Trolley, and hand-bus (Paratransit) will cease operations at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Isaac is still a very large storm, said Greg Bacon, one of the emergency operations officers, at an 8 a.m. briefing, as the EOC went into full activation.

Tropical storm winds from Isaac hitting Manatee County mid-afternoon Sunday would be a little sooner than had been previously anticipated.

"Isaac will probably be a Category 1 hurricane about 120 miles west of Manatee County, but it can get closer or farther away," said Bacon. "We will see significant rains. It's a very wide storm and we're expected to see the onset of tropical force winds as early as Sunday afternoon through Monday evening."

Isaac is expected to bring 4 -7 inches of rain between Sunday and Tuesday.

The last of Isaac should exit Manatee County on Monday evening, rather than Tuesday morning.

Storm surge in Manatee County from Isaac is expected to be on the order of three to five feet after the storm passes, less than originally projected.

The mood in Manatee's Emergency Operations Center seemed to lighten a bit after Bacon reported that Isaac has "moved to the left."

Residents living in low-lying areas and in mobile home parks remain under a voluntary evacuation order out of concern for tropical winds.

A band from Isaac passed through Miami bringing with it a 50 mph gust, Bacon said.

Shelters opened at Manatee and Braden River high schools at 10 a.m. Sunday, but the Braden River shelter closed at 5:15 p.m. due to little demand there.

Manatee High School has been designated the pet friendly shelter. A shelter for special needs persons at Nolan Middle School also opened at 10 a.m.

Manatee County's public schools and State College of Florida have announced that they will be closed on Monday. Also reporting that they will be closed at St. Stephen's Episcopal School and Bradenton Christian School.

A school board meeting Monday night has been postponed, and a decision has not been made on when that meeting would be rescheduled, Margi Nanney, school district spokeswoman said Sunday.

Schools may reopen on Tuesday, but a decision will be made based on winds and Isaac's behavior, she said.

Also closed Monday: government offices for Manatee County, and the cities of Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Palmetto, and Sarasota. The Manatee County Health Department is also closed.

In addition, the Supervisor of Elections, the Manatee Clerk of Courts and Manatee County court system, and Suncoast Workforce Career Center, 3526 Ninth St. W., Bradenton, will be closed on Monday. There will be no garbage collection Monday in Bradenton or in unincorporated Manatee County.

Operations at Port Manatee continue, under "Condition Zulu," meaning that it is closed to boat traffic, said Ron Koper, Manatee County public information officer.

About 150 emergency workers, representing everything from local government, to law enforcement, utilities, and transportation, gathered for the EOC activation on Sunday.

Manatee residents may fill up to 10 sand bags per household on Sunday and Monday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the following distribution points:

Buffalo Creek Golf Course, 8100 69th St. E., Palmetto

G.T. Bray Recreation Center, 5502 33rd Ave. Drive W. Bradenton

Lakewood Ranch Park, near Lakewood Ranch High School

39th St. Stormwater Facility, 5511 39th St. E., Bradenton

Rubonia Community Center, 1309 72nd St. E., Palmetto

The City of Bradenton is providing free sandbags to city residents 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sunday at the City’s Yard. Enter through the gate off 13th Ave. West – right across from 7th Street West.

Bradenton residents can receive up to 10 sandbags per household with proof of residency. The Lake Manatee elevation is just under 38 feet. Residents within the Lake Manatee spillway were notified that they may need to evacuate Sunday.

The Manatee County Health Department warned that weather information indicates water levels in the Myakka Head are nearing flood conditions.

"Although skin contact with flood waters does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, health hazards are a concern when waters become contaminated," the health department said in a press release.

Flood waters may contain fecal material, associated bacteria and viruses. It is important that individuals affected by flood water avoid eating or drinking anything that has been contaminated by flood water, do not wade through standing water, and practice basic hygiene including frequent hand washing using soap and clean water.

Owners of private wells that have been flooded or affected by flood waters are urged to boil water before use, holding it at rolling boil for at least one minute before using it for drinking, washing, or cooking, etc.

Water may also be disinfected by adding 8 drops (about 1/8 teaspoon – this would form a puddle about the size of a dime) of plain unscented household bleach (4 to 6 percent) per gallon of water, and then let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy after 30 minutes, repeat the procedure. Use a container that has a cap or cover for disinfecting and storing water to be used for drinking. This will prevent contamination.

Residents may also use bottled water, especially for mixing baby formula.

For further information, please contact the county health department at 941- 708-8497 or the Florida Emergency Information Line at (800) 342-3557.

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