MANATEE -- Manatee County residents were still coping Tuesday with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Debby.
Debby made landfall at 5 p.m. in Dixie County, just north of Cedar Key in North Florida. It was downgraded to a tropical depression at 8 p.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.
Although all tropical storm warnings in the state have been discontinued, tidal flooding is still predicted within the next 24 hours and motorists should continue to use caution when driving through standing water, authorities said.
Florida Power and Light was working to restore electricity to 1,550 customers scattered throughout Manatee County, said Bryan Gar
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ner, FPL spokesman.
In addition to 1,300 people working, resources have been brought in from other areas, Garner said. "They've been working around the clock."
Outages reported before 8 a.m. Tuesday were expected to have been completed by 6 p.m. Newer outages are expected to be fixed within 14 hours of being reported.
"New storm bands moving through the area are adding new customers," Garner said.
Crews are only able to work when winds are less than 35 mph.
"It's a slow-moving storm so those numbers will continue to go up and down depending on weather conditions," he said.
Two elevators at the 200-resident, 12-story DeSoto Towers Apartments for senior citizens have been out of commission since Sunday when the storm temporarily knocked out electricity, said Manager Nancy Steele. Three different repair companies had been called in as of Tuesday afternoon to attempt repairs on the elevators, and the complex's field engineer was traveling down from Tampa if necessary.
Complex employees were delivering meals and needed medication to residents on upper floors who are unable to use the stairs for physical reasons, Steele said.
To report a power outage or to receive a status update, customers can visit www.fplmaps.com or call 1-800-4OUTAGE (1-800-468-8243).
Debby expected to move
Tom Dougherty, NWS forecaster, said the area will see continue Wednesday to see rough surf and rip currents along the Gulf Coast.
South/southwest winds Tuesday ranged from 31 to 36 mph and gusts as high as 49 mph. Rainfall totaling a quarter to a half inch was expected Tuesday.
"The farther away you are from the center (of the storm), the worse the weather can be," Dougherty said. "We're getting the rain bands -- feeder bands -- wrapping around the system and that weather can be very intense."
Rain and strong winds should continue through Tuesday night, with the chance of rain at 60 percent.
Debby is forecast to move across north central Florida Wednesday night and Thursday morning through Gainesville to the Palm Coast, Dougherty said.
Public agencies patrol beach
Public safety agencies are working to patrol areas affected by the storm.
"We don't have any type of rain damage out here; we're just getting beat up from all the winds," said Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale. "We've had a couple more boats go into the pier. We're doing whatever we can to minimize damage, but until the winds, waves and tide settle down, there's no way we can get those boats."
Six boats at Bradenton Beach Marina have sunk and another four to six are damaged beyond repair, Speciale said.
Capt. Joe Westerman, Manatee County Marine Rescue division spokesman, said there were several rescue calls when the storm first hit the area over the weekend, but none have been made recently.
"We have had people out in the water," Westerman said. "We have limited people going in. We're keeping a watchful eye on them and trying to redirect them before we have any problems."
Double red flags are flying on the beaches, he said.
Skyway Bridge still closed
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, connecting Manatee and Pinellas counties, remained closed from high winds and heavy rainfall.
Officials clocked sustained winds of 47 mph and gusts to 55 mph atop the bridge at noon Tuesday, according to Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Gaskins.
"As soon as the winds die down, we'll reopen it," Gaskins said.
The bridge, traveled by an average of 52,000 vehicles daily, has been closed since 4 p.m. Sunday, a rare occurrence. Gaskins said the only other long-term closure was eight-hours long Sept. 14, 2001 during Tropical Storm Gabrielle.
"This storm has obviously brought a lot of rain," said FHP Lt. Greg Bueno. "The difference is it's brought a lot of rain over several days and combined with winds, it's blanketed all of Florida. "It's just erring on the side of caution and it's for everyone's safety."
Tampa's Howard Frankland Bridge and Gandy Bridge, connecting Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, and Courtney Campbell Parkway, connecting Tampa to Clearwater, are open.
Traffic along Interstate 75, an alternate route around the Skyway Bridge, was moving normally Tuesday despite wet conditions.
A few accidents were reported along the interstate south of Manatee County, Bueno said. All motorists are encouraged to call 511 and to frequently check the FHP Live Crash and Roadway Conditions website at www.flhsmv.gov/fhp/traffic/crs_h501.htm.
Two people died Monday night in a rollover crash in Sarasota County, when the driver lost control of a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee as it headed north on Interstate 75, according to an FHP news release. The Jeep rolled several times and collided with a tree, the release states. Names of the victims have not been released.
Several roads under water
Cortez Bridge and the Manatee Avenue Bridge are both open to vehicle traffic, but are closed to boat traffic.
However, two county roads are closed due to flooding, said Laurie Feagans, chief of Manatee County Emergency Management.
Upper Manatee River Road west of Rye Road and Jim Davis Road from County Road 675 to Golf Course Drive are shut down.
The Salvation Army has placed seven mobile kitchens near flood-prone areas throughout Florida to assist, according to a news release.
"From Naples to Panama City, Debby is definitely making its mark on Florida," said Kevin Smith, Emergency Disaster Services director for The Salvation Army in Florida.
The organization is also working to provide food and hydration for first-responders and individuals in need.
In other Manatee County waterfront neighborhoods, vehicles lined the street so residents would be able to avoid traveling flooded roads.
"The tide gets high and the rain can't drain into the river," said Joe Henry who lives near Riverside Drive. "When the tide's low, it will take care of itself. When the tide rises, the catch basins will be full again."
Feagans said Debby should remind citizens of the importance to be prepared and have a family plan.
"We were very fortunate in a lot of ways," Feagans said. "We did have some flooding, but as soon as the sewer center caught up they've drained off. "This is a great wake up call for people to realize this tropical storm was passing us and not directly hitting us."
-- Herald reporters Christine Hawes and Sara Kennedy contributed to this article.