As Hurricane Hermine made landfall in Florida late Thursday night, its wrath continued to impact local schools, roads and residents.
Although the Big Bend region of Florida will take the brunt of Hermine, in Manatee and Sarasota counties forecasters expect Friday to be the beginning of the end of the waterlogged chaos that has gripped the area since Wednesday.
As of 8 p.m. Thursday, Hermine was a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 80 mph, and it was heading north-northeast at 12 mph into northern Florida.
Manatee County schools will remain closed Friday, and athletic events including prep football games have been postponed. The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and New College of Florida also will be closed Friday, but State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota will be open.
Manatee County Government offices will reopen at 10 a.m. Friday, and Manatee County Area Transit routes will resume at 7 a.m.
“County officials tonight continued to urge residents to stay off local roads while Manatee remains under a tropical storm warning and a flood watch overnight,” county spokesman Nick Azzara said Thursday night in a statement. “Some Manatee County roads remain under water, and officials continue to remind drivers not to drive through standing water. In Manatee, many manhole covers have come loose, making standing water especially dangerous for drivers.”
An estimated 7,470 customers in Manatee County were without power as of 8 p.m. Thursday, according to Florida Power & Light. Manatee County emergency dispatchers issued numerous calls for service Thursday evening after receiving reports of downed power lines. In Holmes Beach, police reported that a downed treee caused a power outage in the 8300 block of Marina Drive.
Following Wednesday’s deluge, rain began pounding areas of Manatee County again just after noon Thursday, as feeder bands offshore made their way inland, according to Manatee County emergency management officials.
“Pay attention to the weather,” National Weather Service meteorologist Rodney Wynn said Thursday night. “If you’re on the roads, slow down. If you hear thunder, go inside. This should patch on through the night and conditions should improve by tomorrow. Drive carefully.”
Manatee and Sarasota counties were added to the list of counties under a state of emergency by Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday as a result of then-Tropical Storm Hermine, raising the total number to 51 counties out of the 67 in Florida. Sarasota County declared a local state of emergency just after 3 p.m. Thursday.
The tropical storm warning was been extended southward along the west coast of Florida to include Manatee and Sarasota counties and includes the greater Tampa/St. Petersburg area, the National Hurricane Center reported Thursday. Hermine strengthened to hurricane status Thursday afternoon.
The rain in Manatee and Sarasota counties, though, is predicted to decrease through Saturday, according to forecasters, and on Friday the rain is expected to clear up a little bit, Wynn noted.
“The storm is going to move off to the northeast over Georgia and South Carolina, but we’re still going to have a lot of moisture over us,” the meteorologist said, “so we’re still going to see 50-60 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms.”
The chance of rain after 7 p.m. Friday will decrease to about 30 percent, with high temperatures at around 86 and low temperatures at around 78.
“Saturday we’re looking at about a 40 to 50 percent chance or rain and storms — that’s through the day,” Wynn said, adding that the high temperatures on Saturday will be around 88 and the lows at around 76. “And then overnight after 7 p.m., it’ll be down to about a 10 percent chance ... so Saturday night should be a pretty good night.”
Over a 24-hour period since 7 p.m. Thursday, a total of 7.09 inches of rain was recorded at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
“Our biggest concern is not actually the wind event, but it is going to be a rain event for us,” Manatee County emergency management chief Don Hermey said during a media briefing Thursday morning. “As you noticed yesterday, we had a tremendous volume of rain associated with the storm.”
Hermey cautioned residents Thursday that the ground is also already very saturated. There are concerns for standing water with an accumulated average rainfall for the Manatee County predicted to be six to 10 inches average rain by Friday, and it could be as high as up to 15 inches in some areas.
“If you do have to go out on the roads, we ask that you do not enter roads that you see water,” he said. “Our mantra is: Please turn around, don’t drown.”
The roads on Anna Maria Island seemed less flooded on day two of Hermine’s impact, but some side roads remained closed. Surfers and beach walkers enjoyed high waves on a rainless Thursday morning. Bradenton Beach City Hall, which closed Thursday, will reopen Friday, according to Bradenton Beach City Attorney Ricinda Perry.
The National Weather Service placed several advisories in affect for Manatee, including a 24-hour coastal flood advisory that started at 1 p.m. Thursday, high surf and rip current advisories that started at 10 p.m. Thursday and a flood watch until 8 p.m. Friday.
Staff writer Meghin Delaney contributed to this story.
Area closings for Friday
Manatee County schools
University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee
New College of Florida
Bradenton Christian School
Saint Stephen's Episcopal School
The State College of Florida Collegiate School, grades 6-12
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