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T.S. Colin bears down on Florida's Big Bend and leaves a soggy mess in Tampa Bay

Tampa: Kenneth Jones helps a driver whose BMW stalled in floodwaters in front of his house near W Azeele and S Occident streets in the West Shore area.
Tampa: Kenneth Jones helps a driver whose BMW stalled in floodwaters in front of his house near W Azeele and S Occident streets in the West Shore area.
Published Jun. 7, 2016

Leo Potts and Nancy Bowman rode atop tricycles Monday afternoon through the ankle-deep water on Shore Boulevard in Gulfport. Nearby, reams of seaweed piled against doorways of beachside motel rooms.

They said they considered kayaks, but, by the afternoon, the wind was too tough for paddling.

"Gulfport always floods like this," Bowman said. "Any time there's a storm. We're not worried."

It was like that Monday, all day long and all over Tampa Bay, as Tropical Storm Colin trudged north and east through the Gulf of Mexico.

Slow-moving and disorganized, Colin hurled bands of rain and gusty winds that blew through the bay area, flooding streets, and closing schools and businesses.

While the storm brought no widespread damage, it gave state and local governments valuable practice in emergency response as the 2016 hurricane season amps up.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday morning for 34 Florida counties, including those in the Tampa Bay area. Though the storm centered on the Florida Panhandle, Scott said, it would affect the entire state. Its center reached land around 9 p.m. Monday in the Apalachee Bay area of the Big Bend.

Localities as far inland as southern Georgia braced for a deluge.

In the Tampa Bay area on Monday, 4 to 6 inches of rain fell, with some areas seeing even greater local totals. Maximum sustained winds ranged between 50 and 60 mph. Officials also warned of higher-than-normal tides, which contributed to coastal flooding.

"For us, it is pretty much a one-day event," said 10Weather WTSP chief meteorologist Jim Van Fleet, noting that flash flooding was among the biggest threats.

Bobby Deskins, a 10Weather WTSP meteorologist, said tides had been running high over the past couple of days following a new moon on Saturday. High winds pushed more water into Tampa Bay.

Emergency operations centers opened in several bay area counties early Monday. The Sunshine Skyway bridge was closed about 11 a.m.

MacDill Air Force Base operated only with essential personnel, evacuating its KC-135 tanker planes to Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire.

As many as 18,000 people lost electricity for at least part of the day. By Monday night, though, most Tampa Electric and Duke Energy power outages were quickly repaired.

In Tampa, low-lying city streets flooded in many of the usual spots. Much of Bayshore Boulevard was impassible. Tampa police routed cars off Bayshore at S Howard Avenue, sending heavy traffic into the city's SoHo district.

Not all flood-prone roads, however, had standing water. The intersection of Neptune Street and Dale Mabry Highway was handling the downpour even after high tide hit.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a news conference late Monday that some flooding is always expected in the city with any major storm. He said the city's emergency response had gone well, with no major problems, adding that he expected Bayshore to remain closed into today.

"These storms are unpredictable," Buckhorn said. "I would rather inconvenience folks than have to go get them."

At Tampa International Airport, there were 85 flights delayed and 19 canceled.

Schools opened Monday in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, though Pinellas said it would excuse absences. Later, officials in Pasco and Pinellas let out students early before the brunt of the storm hit. Hillsborough canceled field trips and extracurricular activities, but classes continued.

Tampa Bay Tech and Durant high schools each postponed their graduations, with Tampa Bay Tech now scheduled for Wednesday and Durant on Thursday, both at 8:15 p.m. at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

The University of South Florida canceled classes at all campuses starting at 3 p.m. They were scheduled to resume today.

High tide peaked about 3 p.m.

In Tarpon Springs, signs warning "High Water" and "Do Not Enter" stood along Dodecanese Boulevard and Athens Street, where depths in some places were as great as 2 feet.

Owners of restaurants and gift shops in the city's business district yelled at the drivers who ignored the signs, launching waves that lapped against storefronts in the wake of their passing cars.

It was a similar scene at the opposite end of Pinellas County. Nearly all of Gulfport's eclectic boutiques and restaurants were closed.

Some, though, rode out the storm.

Among them was O'Maddy's Bar & Grille and the neighboring Salty's Gulfport bar, which each held more than 30 patrons inside, many sporting bathing suits and flip flops. They closed the restaurant around 2:30 p.m. because patrons could no longer drive the streets to get there. But the bar would remain open until 3 a.m., said O'Maddy's manager Jennifer Kirbell.

"We never close," Kirbell said. She pointed to a picture hanging on the wall showing the surf lapping at the front steps of O'Maddy's during Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.

"People keep calling asking if we're still doing karaoke tonight at 9:30 p.m." she said. "We sure are."

Times staff writers Justine Griffin, Tony Marrero, Claire McNeill, Patty Ryan, Zachary T. Sampson, Jeff Solochek and Josh Solomon and photographer Douglas Clifford contributed to this report, which also used information from the Associated Press. Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813)226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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