Stormy weather 'not fazing us at all'
TREASURE ISLAND — Storm? What storm?
Life went on along Pinellas' beach communities Monday night, despite calls for a mandatory evacuation starting at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
"It's not fazing us at all," said Trisha Grant, 31, from Treasure Island. "It's not going to be anything. It's no big deal."
Grant and friends Bill Galloway and Robbin Banks spent Monday night drinking beer at Thunderbird Beach Resort on Gulf Boulevard.
"I live on the second floor," Galloway, 54, of Treasure Island said. "I couldn't care less."
Tourists on the beach weren't much different.
"It's cool," said Eric Marrer, 36, visiting from Switzerland. "We expect when we come that we could see one. We are excited to see all what's happening."
— Mariana Minaya, Times staff writer
Storm's rainfall pounds Caribbean
Before reaching Florida, Fay ripped across islands in the Caribbean, where officials braced for the worst.
But Haiti, which is prone to devastating flooding because of deforestation, appeared to have escaped catastrophic damage. U.N. officials said two infants were killed when an overcrowded bus tipped over while trying to cross a swollen river.
Seven other people also reportedly died in storm-related flooding in Haiti, and four deaths were blamed on the storm in the Dominican Republic.
In Cuba, shelters were set up and more than 10,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas.
— Times wires
Some in Keys lose power; no injuries
KEY WEST — Tropical Storm Fay sloshed over the Florida Keys on Monday afternoon, producing an initial punch smaller than most anticipated. A few hundred homes lost power, officials said, and the rain — it totaled 1 to 3 inches — was trailing off by nightfall.
No damage or injuries were reported. Roughly 25,000 tourists evacuated, Monroe County Mayor Mario Di Gennaro said, but some bars and restaurants were open, though crowds were thin. Despite early warnings that the storm could strengthen, some residents refused to leave.
Willie Dykes, 58, and friend Essy Pastrana, 48, live on a sailboat in Key West and weren't going anywhere. They filled up gas cans Monday morning and bought food, water and whiskey.
"We're going to ride it out," Dykes said, his beard blowing sideways in the wind. "We're not worried about it. We've seen this movie before."
— Associated Press
Vacation plans fall victim to storm
MIAMI — All the Riehl family wanted was a nice Key West vacation.
But Fay forced a change in plans. Bruce and Anne Riehl and their two daughters spent all day Sunday evacuating from Key West.
On Monday, they were trying to avoid the rain in Miami.
Said Bruce Riehl: "We're going to go watch TV in the room. It turned from an outdoor vacation to an indoor vacation."
The family, from upstate New York, is supposed to be in Fort Myers on Wednesday. "We're just eating and watching TV," he said.
— Miami Herald
Collier County braces for wind
NAPLES — Tolls were lifted along Alligator Alley, schools closed and Collier County officials opened three shelters Tuesday morning. Still, local officials were unsure what Fay might bring.
"Being a tropical storm, we're in a bit of a quagmire," Marco fire Chief Mike Murphy said. It's not just a Collier County storm, he said, "but an all-Florida storm."
On Marco Island, city officials chained generators to traffic signal poles at major intersections so roads could stay open if power were knocked out.
Some homes on the wealthy island were barricaded with hurricane shutters. Only a handful had plywood over the windows.
Many residents said their preparations were affected by their experience with Hurricane Wilma three years ago.
"I'm a little worried about the surge," said Isles of Capri resident Kathy Miller, 44. "We're only 3 feet above sea level here."
At the Caxambas Park and Boat Marina in Marco Island, manager Lester Moore spent the day locking down bait tanks and bringing in floats.Moore said the building, owned by the county, is designed to float if it is knocked off its foundation. He said its roof was torn off in Wilma.
"This building cannot sink," he said.
Another protective measure: the bait shrimp are kept in burial vaults that are chained down. "They won't move a bit. We've never had a tank move," Moore, 66, said.
— Chris Tisch, Times staff writer, and Naples Daily News
It can be chancy to stay or to leave
FORT MYERS BEACH — Residents in this island community were more worried about when they could return home than any threat from Fay.
"I was one of the lucky ones who got back on the island early after Hurricane Charley," said NancyLynn Van Owen, recalling the 2004 storm. That allowed her to clean up water damage quickly.
Van Owen intends to ride out Fay on the island — the town had a voluntary evacuation order — but was concerned those who leave could be allowed to return too late to save their property.
"Barring an apocalyptic scenario, we'll be allowing people back on the island as soon as possible," town Vice Mayor Herb Aken said.
— Fort Myers News-Press
Margarette Burke, 90, spent two years out of her home in a FEMA trailer after Hurricane Charley ravaged Charlotte County in 2004. She wasn't planning on letting Fay kick her out a second time. Burke, who lives with her daughter, had no plans to board up the windows or remove the old bed frame, toys or chairs piled up on the porch of her rebuilt house on Easy Street. "There is a lot of living in this house," she said. "As long as it is still standing, I'm not leaving."
Cristina Silva, Times staff writer
For tree trimmers, storm good for business
TAMPA — Ken Mulholland heard news of the storm Saturday and immediately thought of the tree branches brushing against the roof of his Lutz home.
He called Jerry Upcavage at Independent Tree Service. "I've been thinking all along I needed to do it. It's hurricane season," Mulholland said. "But I waited until the last minute."
Upcavage said he received dozens of calls Monday from people eager to have trees trimmed before winds whip them loose.
"Eager is putting it mildly," Upcavage said. "All the procrastinators are calling today."
— Janet Zink, Times staff writer