More than 18,000 homes and businesses were left without power after Tropical Storm Emily made landfall on the Gulf Coast of Florida just before noon on Monday. The storm, which formed in the Gulf of Mexico over the course of the weekend, had wind speeds that approached 45 mph (72 kph) — strong enough to cause some serious damage. The storm was only briefly classified as a tropical storm and has since weakened into a tropical depression, USA Today reports.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Emily first hit the coast at Anna Maria Island, which is located a few miles west of Bradenton. The landfall happened at around 11:10 a.m. EDT. Following the arrival of the storm, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 31 counties scattered across southern and central Florida.
In a statement issued by his office, he reiterated that the storm will soon weaken into a tropical depression.
“While this storm developed quickly overnight and will swiftly move across our state, storms can always develop rapidly and that is why it is so important to be prepared at the start of hurricane season.”
Even before Emily hit shore, the Florida Highway Patrol closed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay as a precautionary measure. This move, according to the authorities, was to prevent any mishaps occurring due to the high winds from Emily. By Monday morning, the region experienced winds gusting at over 60 mph, following which the bridge was closed and motorists were asked to travel via alternate routes.
The storm also resulted in a flood watch being issued for almost the entire Tampa area. With the storm expected to bring significant rainfall along with it, low lying areas in Tampa could see some street flooding. Authorities say they have issued all the necessary warnings for residents from these areas.
Other places where tropical storm warnings are in effect include the counties of Pinellas, Sarasota, and Lee. As per current estimates, Emily could dump as much as four inches of rain across a large area spread across the west coast of central Florida. In some isolated areas, the storm has already caused more than eight inches of rain in the past 48 hours, the National Weather Service confirmed. The storm is also likely to cause an isolated tornado or isolated waterspouts over the waters of Southwestern Florida.
Even as authorities continue to monitor Emily, officials from the Florida Division of Emergency Management director have urged residents to make the proper preparations for the storm.
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