Southeast gets more rain as Tropical Storm Colin heads east

Tropical Storm Colin was expected to continue dropping heavy rains over the Southeast on Tuesday after moving across northern Florida, knocking out power and flooding roads.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency as the storm churned its way across the state into southeast Georgia, and The National Hurricane Center said Colin marked the earliest that a third named storm has ever formed in the Atlantic basin.

By 5 a.m. EDT Tuesday, the storm was moving into the Atlantic, away from the Georgia coast.

Scott said in an interview that there were no reports of major damage, but the state will be tracking flooding from the sudden deluge of rain, much of which fell during high tides Monday.

In Georgia, Susie Morris said she awoke Tuesday to no wind and no rain at the Lighthouse Inn Bed Breakfast on Georgia’s Tybee Island on the Atlantic coast.

“I certainly don’t have any flooding whatsoever, thank goodness,” said Morris, the proprietor of the inn, a restored 1910 home that was once part of the former Fort Screven military outpost created around the time of the Spanish American War in the 1890s.

In Florida, where Colin has poured nearly 10 inches of rain on some cities, Scott cautioned that the state has seen severe flooding in unlikely places after previous storms.

“We’ll just see how well it runs off,” Scott said. “I always remember back to (Tropical Storm) Isaac in 2012, it went west but we had unbelievable flooding in Palm Beach County.”

Parts of Pinellas County, along Florida’s Gulf Coast, have seen 9 inches of rain. Other areas, from Levy to Sarasota counties, were also soaked with 1 to 6 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.

Flood warnings were issued in many parts of the Tampa Bay area and Tuesday’s commute was shaping up to be a difficult one with roads underwater and in some areas, closed entirely.

Colin’s maximum sustained winds Tuesday morning were near 50 mph with some strengthening forecast after the storm moved into the Atlantic. But National Hurricane Center said Colin was expected to lose its tropical cyclone status by Tuesday night.

The storm disrupted schools and summer programs. Many were dismissed early Monday, and two high school graduations in the Tampa Bay area were postponed due to the storms, with both ceremonies being moved to Wednesday night and Thursday. Winds from Colin also closed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa.

At Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge roads were flooded and businesses sent people home early.

The high winds and rain also knocked out power to about 10,000 Floridians heading into Monday evening from the Tampa Bay area to Jacksonville.

Colin produced rainfall amounts of 3 to 6 inches, and forecasters said up to 8 inches were possible across north Florida, southeastern Georgia and coastal areas of the Carolinas through Tuesday. Tornadoes were also a possibility across parts of the coastal Carolinas on Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Not everyone in Florida was hunkering down. About 50 people were in the water with surfboards off Treasure Island to take advantage of the rare 2-3-foot swells breaking in the Gulf’s warm waters.

“It’s like man against nature,” said Derek Wiltison of Atlantic Beach. “Surfers tend to drop what they’re doing — work, relationships, whatever — to go out and catch a wave.”

The National Hurricane Center said Colin marked the earliest that a third named storm has ever formed in the Atlantic basin.

Does the early start to this year’s hurricane season worry Morris?

“Worried, no,” she said. “I do watch the weather report… but no, I’m not worried.”

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