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Weather clears, but leaves behind debris

MANATEE — A tornado watch, road flooding and reports of downed trees dampened much of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch until 7 p.m. Monday for an eight-county area, including Manatee and Sarasota.

Severe thunderstorms moving through Southwest Florida during the day were to blame for the watch, although it dissipated late afternoon.

According to Bay News 9, the heavy rain affected area outdoor Martin Luther King Jr. Day events across the Bay area. Two of the biggest events were canceled — the Martin Luther King Parades in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The severe weather was due to a low pressure system that moved over the Florida peninsula from the Gulf of Mexico. Winds between 25 to 30 mph were recorded with rainfall amounts of an inch per hour in some locations, according to the National Weather Service.

Besides Manatee and Sarasota, the tornado watch included DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Polk, Charlotte and Lee counties.In Manatee, heavy rains created flooded roads, slowing traffic throughout the community.

Up to 6 inches of rain had fallen on Holmes Beach by mid-afternoon, Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson estimated.

“It’s not as bad as some of our summer storms, but hopefully we’ve seen the worst of it,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of areas flooded and put up traffic signs, but the roads are still passable.”

A LaPensee Plumbing truck was struck by lightning on the Anna Maria Island Bridge. The driver, who was not hurt, could not get the truck re-started and another LaPensee truck towed it off the bridge after about a 15-minute delay.

A large oak tree at Palmetto’s Regatta Pointe Condominiums came down on two autos.

“We don’t know if it was struck by lightning or if it was just blown down,” said resident Mary Jane Dimino.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.

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