Riding out the storm

SUN PHOTO BY TOM CHANG Motorists near Blind Pass Beach on Beach Road in Manasota Key approach ›ood waters with caution Tuesday morning.

By ANNE KLOCKENKEMPER

STAFF WRITER

Meteorologists say the wet weather Southwest Florida is currently experiencing will continue until Friday, but things will begin to dry out in time for the weekend.

Meteorologist Andrew McKaughan, with the National Weather Service in Ruskin, said rainfall in the area varied between 3 and 6 inches, with reports from just northwest of Englewood reporting 6.6 inches of precipitation. He said the Venice area received between 4.5 and 5 inches, with North Port seeing 4 inches of rain. He said totals will reach 5-6 inches near the Venice area, with Charlotte County showing 5 inches.

McKaughan said rain will continue today and Thursday — possibly up to 3 more inches in some areas — then start to lessen.

“It won’t be as widespread, and then it will start to dry out Friday,” he said.

The cause of the rain, McKaughan said, is a stalled frontal boundary, draped over the state.

“We’re getting a lot of tropical moisture being brought into that system and across the Gulf,” he said. “We’re in a very moist air mass, that’s abnormal… for this time of year, that the warmer waters off the Gulf of Mexico are helping produce.”

The deluge in Englewood left several streets underwater Tuesday and prompted some to call the Englewood Fire Department looking for sand bags, Fire Chief Scott Lane said.

“We don’t have them. They should maybe go to a hardware store or Home Depot,” he said.

Although the rain wasn’t as heavy Tuesday afternoon as it was Monday night, the already saturated ground gave most of the water nowhere to go but low- lying streets and parking lots.

“We’re still experiencing flooding on some streets,” Lane said. “Even our station on Paul Morris Drive is swamped in the parking lot.”

Monday night the department was called out for a water rescue near Gulf Boulevard on Manasota Key.

“The call came from a land line about someone in distress. We went down there but didn’t find anyone,” Lane said.

Monday also saw some lightning strikes, one caused a small brush fire and another hit a house, but the fire was quickly extinguished by the rain, Lane said.

“Today we had a dog get trapped under a slab of concrete. We had to dig down seven feet to get it out,” he said. “The dog is fine.”

Although the downpours have caused little more than annoyance and a lot of wet feet, Lane said the best bet was to stay inside as much as possible.

“If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out. If for some reason you do need to be out on the streets don’t drive through standing water. You can never tell how deep the water is,” he said. “My advice is to stay inside until the rain subsides.”

WINK News Meteorologist Jim Farrell said that the heaviest rain is done for the moment in Charlotte County. He, too, said 3-6 inches fell in the area.

“Punta Gorda is at about 5 inches, Rotonda at 5.55, Port Charlotte over 4,” he said. “There will probably be another inch or so coming before things dry out. Each day should be a little drier, with it definitely getting a lot drier starting on Friday. We may actually have a chance for a pretty spectacular weekend … with lower humidity.”

Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane said his office is keeping an eye on water levels throughout the region.

“We did have some flooding on Beach Road and Manasota Key, but that was in conjunction with heavy rainfall and the high tide. It seems to be running off okay now, but we just want motorists to drive with caution,” he said. High water signs were put up on River Road to alert drivers to the situation. “It’s like a warning so that people won’t go crazy and hydroplane,” McCrane said.

Englewood Sun Editor Clinton Burton contributed to this story.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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