Packing winds of about 40 mph and torrents of rain, Tropical Storm Colin was churning north in the Gulf of Mexico late Sunday toward a predicted landfall sometime Monday in the Big Bend region of west central Florida, north of Levy County, near Cedar Key.
But as it rotates by Sarasota and Manatee counties Monday morning and afternoon and into Tuesday, meteorologists expect Colin to spin off three to five inches of rain on the inland portions of both counties and four to eight inches along the Manatee and Sarasota coasts, according to John McMichael, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Ruskin.
“Rain will begin before dawn Monday, according to the latest and greatest forecast,” Don Hermey, Manatee County’s Emergency Management Chief, announced before a gathering of 75 officials at the Manatee County Emergency Operations Center at 10 a.m. Sunday.
The last tropical storm with this much potential to do damage was Tropical Storm Debby, which caused extensive flooding in north and central Florida from June 23 to June 27 in 2012. Debby dumped nearly 29 inches of rain in southwestern Wakulla County but also flooded rivers in Pasco County.
“With this kind of rain, roads can get flooded,” McMichael said Sunday night. “That is where people get trapped. It doesn’t take much water to where people can get killed. We like people to remember when they come to a flooded road, ‘Turn around. Don’t drown.’”
Anna Maria Elementary School will be closed Monday as a precautionary measure, Mike Barber, a School District of Manatee County spokesman, announced Sunday night. All other schools will operate normally, Barber added.
“It is a precautionary closing, to allow families to prepare for possible high water,”Barber said.
Sandbags will be available Monday at GT Bray Park, Buffalo Creek Park, Lakewood Ranch Park, the storm water maintenance facility on 39th Street East and the Holmes Beach Police Department, Hermey said.
No shelters, including special needs, will open, said Bene Hunter, with the American Red Cross.
“We have reached out to local churches, and they will open if needed,” Hunter said.
Residents should expect some downed tree limbs and branches, Hermey said.
The Florida Department of Health in Manatee advised residents Sunday morning to rid their yards of standing water as soon as possible to limit the hatching of mosquitoes, said Dr. Jennifer Bencie, administrator of Manatee’s health department.
If there is a need for boiling water, Bencie said her office will get the word out.
Tropical storm status
As soon as the depression that would become Colin made its way into warm Gulf of Mexico waters from the Yucatan and began to strengthen Sunday morning, Manatee and Sarasota counties were immediately placed in tropical storm warning status by the National Weather Service, McMichael said.
“A tropical storm warning status means that tropical storm conditions will be impacting the region in the next 24 to 36 hours,” McMichael said.
The status will continue through Monday, McMichael said.
Manatee and Sarasota, as well as all of west central and southwest Florida, are also in flood watch status, McMichael said.
The National Weather Service, at 4 p.m. Sunday, officially upgraded depression L-93 to Tropical Storm Colin. At 5 p.m. Sunday, Colin was 460 miles to the southwest of Tampa moving north and northeast at 12 miles an hour, McMichael said.
Overnight Sunday into early Monday, the weather in Sarasota and Manatee will deteriorate, McMichael added. There will be wind shear as the wind rotates, which also can cause marine waterspouts over water and tornadoes on land.
“We will start to see more and more thunderstorms moving in from the south,” McMichael said. “As Sunday night wears on, we will be looking at numerous showers and squally winds.”
Anyone who goes to the beach is ‘nuts’
McMichael said that anyone who was intent on making Monday a beach day was plain old “nuts.”
There will be severe rip currents as the seas build with a southerly flow, piling up water.
“Rip tides will be severe, so we are advising against swimming and boating,” Hermey said.
At around 6 p.m. Sunday, the beach lifeguard stations in Sarasota County were moved back from the shoreline, according to a Saraota County news release.
The worst conditions of the day could be around 1:23 p.m. Monday, which also is high-tide time in Manatee.
“We expect the tide level to be on to three feet above ground level, which could cause minor coastal flooding,” McMichael said.
Richard Dymond: 941-745-7072, @RichardDymond