Tropical Storm Hermine dumped rain and chaos on the area Wednesday, flooding streets and forcing school closings and other cancellations, and the deluge will continue Thursday and Friday, forecasters said.
Manatee and Sarasota counties have a 60 to 70 percent chance of rain Thursday and will receive as much as 3 to 4 inches more of rain through Friday afternoon on top of the 5.67 inches already recorded by 5 p.m. Wednesday at Sarasota–Bradenton International Airport, according to the National Weather Service.
All public and many private schools are closed Thursday, as well as county government offices. The Manatee County Judicial Center also will be closed.
“Tropical Storm Hermine is, of course, tracking well north of the Bradenton area. The big thing we’re looking at is rain,” National Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Fleming said Wednesday evening. “Rain is going to be a big concern through at least tomorrow and probably into Friday as well.”
As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center reported Hermine’s wind speeds were 50 mph as the storm’s center creeped from the Gulf of Mexico toward the Big Bend area of Florida, moving north and east at a speed of 8 mph. Around 11 p.m., forecasters issued a hurricane warning for portions of northern Florida’s Gulf Coast as Hermine continued to strengthen.
Locally, the highest amounts of rain will be along the coastal areas of Manatee and Sarasota counties, Fleming said.
Manatee County’s Emergency Operations Center is set to begin a Level 2 partial activation at 7 a.m. Thursday. According to county spokesman Nick Azzara, a Level 2 partial activation is a closed meeting of representatives from law enforcement, government and public works in which everyone reports the latest updates from their respective groups.
“It’s a local briefing, and then we’ll be able to turn around and give you guys, the media, and the public through social media the latest situation on the roads,” he said.
Late Wednesday, the office of Gov. Rick Scott included Manatee and Sarasota with 49 other Florida counties placed under a state of emergency.
“The Florida Division of Emergency Management continues to actively monitor Tropical Storm Hermine and urges everyone in Florida to remain vigilant and take all necessary precautions as it moves toward the Gulf Coast,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Meanwhile, Manatee County Area Transit service was suspended Wednesday afternoon and will remain suspended Thursday.
Manatee County emergency dispatchers issued numerous calls for service Wednesday after reports of vehicles stalled in flooded roadways at several locations and water entering homes or businesses.
Homes in the 900 block of 14th Street East, 4900 block of Center Road, 500 block of 14th Street West, 3100 block of Cortez West and the 5300 block of 14 Street West in Bradenton were among those reported to experience flooding. The Hibachi Grill restaurant, 3616 First St. W., also reported flooding.
In Bradenton, Ninth Avenue West from Ninth Street West to the train tracks also was closed Wednesday because of high water. The intersection of Ninth Street East and U.S. 301 was closed Wednesday afternoon due to flooding, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Flooding at the intersection of U.S. 41 and 57th Avenue West also was reported by FHP. Bradenton police also blocked the outside lane of 14th Street northbound in Bradenton.
Motorists drove slowly Wednesday evening along 14th Street West near 12th Avenue West in Bradenton, their tires buried in water. Several people walked along the sidewalk, their ankles also disappearing as they stomped along. A man gave a piggyback ride to a young girl, who took in her surroundings with widened eyes.
“It’s important that people never drive through flooded waters,” Fleming said. “Water is often deceptive of how deep it really is. You also don’t know what the flood waters are hiding; there could be downed power lines in the flood waters that still have an electric charge. Never drive through flooded water. If at all possible, don’t travel until the storm passes unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Palmetto Chief of Police Scott Tyler had a similar message to the public, urging people to stay home until Hermine passes.
He also cautioned drivers who were trying to drive around flooded areas or stalled vehicles.
“Ditches are starting to fill up, so sometimes it becomes difficult to see where the edge of the road is,” Tyler said. “Just avoid driving in flooded roads.”
While the Manatee County Judicial Center is closed Thursday, it is expected to re-open Friday. The Silvertooth Judicial Center in Sarasota and the DeSoto County Courthouse are expected to be open for business as usual.
Any hearings scheduled before Judge Janette Dunnigan on Thursday will be rescheduled to 3 p.m. Friday.
As of Wednesday evening, trash pickup in the county will proceed Thursday as scheduled, but Thursday’s Manatee County Commission Land Use meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. has been canceled.
“All items on the agenda will be re-noticed and re-advertised for dates to be announced in the future,” according to an email sent by Azzara to commissioners Wednesday afternoon. “We’ll keep you posted on other county-related closures as soon as decisions are made.”
The flooding caused raw sewage to come up from the sewer lines in Holmes Beach, according to Holmes Beach Police Department’s Facebook page.
“Avoid the standing water in the area of the 5100-5200 block of Gulf Drive,” the post reads. “Raw sewage is coming up from the sewer lines due to flood waters.”
The rain was enough to cancel other community events, including a Brexit panel discussion held at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and a Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates board meeting. SANCA is the nonprofit that operates Nathan Benderson Park.
The South Florida Museum is closed Thursday and will return to normal operating hours Friday, according to a release from the museum.
Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School and Bradenton Christian School are both canceled for Thursday classes. As of 2 p.m., Sarasota County schools planned to be open Thursday, according to officials.
The State College of Florida and University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee also will be closed Thursday.
Just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, Bradenton Beach City Attorney Ricinda Perry sent an email that Bradenton Beach City Hall “will be closed except for all essential personnel” Thursday due to flooding and inclement weather.
As the storm impacts Florida, forecasters expect to see a greater risk of tornadoes and higher storm surge in the county through Thursday.
The Anna Maria Island shopping plaza called “The Shops at Waterline” held true to its name, as its parking lot was partially flooded Wednesday and the water level at its nearby marina was pushing over the concrete wall.
Portions of Holmes Boulevard in Holmes Beach were closed as flooding made it unsafe to pass through. Other roads and sidewalks were significantly flooded throughout the island.
“Don’t drive through standing water,” warned Holmes Beach Police Chief William Tokajer. “You never know if the road is truly under there.”
Although none of the beaches were closed, high waves crashed into the shore up and down the island.
Herald staff writers Claire Aronson, Meghin Delaney, Jessica De Leon and Janelle O’Dea contributed to this story.
Thursday’s weather-related closings
- State College of Florida
- University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee
- All public and many private schools, including athletic events
- Manatee County government offices
- The Manatee County Judicial Center
- Manatee County Area Transit service suspended
- South Florida Museum
- Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School
- Bradenton Christian School
- Bradenton Beach City Hall