Tropical Storm Colin leaves mess across Tampa Bay area

Nearly every part of the region was touched by wind and rain; St. Petersburg more than others.
Published June 8 2016
Updated June 8 2016

Tropical Storm Colin had more in store for Tampa Bay on Tuesday after blowing through the region the day before.

Roads flooded, power dropped, and millions of gallons of partially treated sewage flowed into area waters as the tail of the storm whipped through with throttling force.

Colin's winds ripped apart tents at a homeless shelter, downed trees and broke boats free from their moorings, though the storm stuck around mainly in the form of heavy rain, including in the Big Bend region where it made landfall Monday night.

Striking in the first week of June, Colin signaled a quick start for the June-to-November Atlantic hurricane season. The storm touched each corner of the region, none more forcefully than in St. Petersburg, where it dropped nearly a foot of rain.

Here's a breakdown of how Colin affected Tampa Bay.

Rain fell heavy, here and there

Another 2 and 4 inches of rain fell in parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough on Tuesday, said 10Weather WTSP meteorologist Bobby Deskins. It landed on soaked ground, the puddles growing rapidly, ankle-deep in many places. Gusty winds turned the rain sideways and led the Florida Highway Patrol to close the Sunshine Skyway bridge during morning rush hour.

All told, the storm brought 6 to 12 inches of rain to much of Tampa Bay from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday, according to 10Weather WTSP. Along with St. Petersburg, cities in central Pinellas were drenched, including Largo, which had nearly 10 inches over roughly 48 hours. South Tampa logged about 5.5 inches and more than 8 inches fell in Brandon.

The influx pushed some sanitary systems to capacity, prompting requests that residents flush toilets sparingly and leading to several sewage overflows across the region.

Further north, Holiday and Lutz each saw roughly 4 inches of rain, as did northern parts of Hernando County near the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

Morning rain slows traffic, floods homes

The water pooled deep enough to make some local roads impassable.

In Largo, high water prompted emergency responders to help with a voluntary evacuation of the Mariners Cove mobile home park. About 30 people left, 20 of them for a nearby shelter, until the storm passed.

Neighborhoods first to flood in any storm, including South Tampa, Gulfport and Shore Acres, all took on standing water, including about 15 locations in the city of Tampa, said Brad Baird, public works and utilities services administrator.

There were no reports of flooded structures in Hillsborough or the cities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace.

"We thought we might see a lot of damage, but we just didn't see it," said Sal Ruggiero, manager for neighborhood empowerment with Tampa.

Colin's winds, with gusts between 50 and 60 mph, shredded 70 tents at the Pinellas Hope homeless shelter, forcing residents to hunker down as squalls swept through, said Mark Dufva, Catholic Charities' executive director. No one was hurt, but the storm caused about $10,000 in damages, Dufva said.

About a half-dozen boats became unmoored and wound up piled up along the shore near Seaplane Basin Park in Davis Islands. Officers secured the vessels and were working to identify and reach the owners.

On exam day, students braved storm

Schools reopened across Tampa Bay on Tuesday after closing early the day before. Pinellas said more than 12,000 students stayed away Monday, including prekindergarten students and graduated seniors, compared to 8,500 on the same day a year before. Hillsborough's attendance rate Monday was about 90 percent, compared to about 93 percent two weeks earlier.

On Tuesday, Pinellas administrators diverted children from Cross Bayou Elementary to Walsingham Elementary because of the weather. In Hillsborough, parents drove through the high water to reach drop-off lines, determined to get their kids to school for scheduled exams.

"Despite the bad weather and the danger, he had to come," said Mickey Sada, dropping off his son Andres at Woodrow Wilson Middle in South Tampa. "There was no solution around that."

Parent Jim Cohen, dropping off son Tyrese at Wilson, questioned why the school district didn't give students the day off so families wouldn't have to navigate potentially treacherous conditions, especially in flood-prone neighborhoods.

"I'm knowledgeable of the area, and I listened to the news, so I was able to dodge the floods and get here safely," he said.

Power outages linger after storm passes

Both Duke Energy and Tampa Electric Co. reported scattered outages starting Monday morning. At first, only a few thousand residents were left without power, but that number grew as the storm intensified.

Shortly after noon Monday, more than 9,000 Duke customers were without power along with about 1,500 Tampa Electric customers. Later in the day, more than 18,000 people did not have electricity in the area, about 9,000 customers from each company.

The outages continued Tuesday as more wind and rain battered Tampa Bay. More than 10,000 local residents did not have power around 9:30 a.m.

Utility crews scattered across the region as the storm ebbed, fixing wires and trimming branches along power lines.

By about 3 p.m. Tuesday, the number of those without power fell to less than a third of its peak — 1,000 customers of Tampa Electric Co. and 4,000 for Duke. And by 8 p.m., only about 1,500 residents were left without power, mostly in Pinellas.

What's next

More storms are expected later this evening and possibly Thursday, said 10Weather WTSP chief meteorologist Jim Van Fleet.

A patch of tropical moisture poised to pass over South or Central Florida may bring longer periods of rain Thursday and reignite flooding concerns.

Two rivers are expected to crest at midday today: the Alafia River in Lithia, at about 13 feet, and the Little Manatee River in Wimauma, at about 11.7 feet, Van Fleet said.

He said he was pleased to see Tampa Bay's leaders taking Colin's conditions seriously, but said a tropical storm is no match for a hurricane.

"A tropical storm is a good dry run, but I still think the bay area is not prepared for a major hurricane today," he said. "It's been so long since anybody here has been so heavily impacted by one. … I just don't think we're ready."

Staff writers Tony Marrero, Hannah Alani, Richard Danielson, Charlie Frago, Barbara Behrendt, Claire McNeill and Kathryn Varn contributed to this report. Contact Zachary T. Sampson at zsampson@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804.

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