'Catastrophic flooding' hits FL

Some areas expected to get up to 30 inches of rain. Governor seeks federal disaster declaration.

BY VICKI DESORMIER | MIAMI | August 20, 2008

"This storm is turning into a serious, catastrophic flooding event, particularly in southern Brevard County."

—Gov. Charlie Crist

Tropical Storm Fay, crawling just off the coast of Florida, continued Wednesday to soak the state causing "catastrophic flooding." Some areas were expected to receive up to 30 inches of rain.

"This storm is turning into a serious, catastrophic flooding event, particularly in southern Brevard County," Gov. Charlie Crist said in announcing he was seeking a federal disaster declaration for affected counties.

Fay has dumped as much as 25 inches of rain on Brevard County, causing extensive flooding especially near South Melbourne. Some residents of a trailer park had to be rescued by Florida National Guardsmen.

A tornado on Tuesday in Barefoot Bay and constant heavy rain in Indiatlantic and Palm Bay has also caused a great deal of water damage throughout that area.

St. Lucie County to the south has also felt the effects of more than 2 feet of rain over the last 24 hours. Public schools were closed for the rest of the week in the county. Numerous roads were closed due to flooding.

Members of the Florida VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) put out a call Wednesday night for flood cleanup kits and supplies. Several faith-based groups, including Baptist Disaster and the United Methodist Committee on Relief, said they would provide the kits or seek funding to purchase more of the kits.

Electricity has been restored to many of the homes that were darkened in the southwest part of the state and in the area near Lake Okechobee where the storm passed through.

Brevard and St. Lucie counties reported nearly 25,000 people without power. Power in some portions of northern Volusia and southern Flagler counties was faltering late Wednesday night as the storm moved northward.

Fay was sitting just offshore in the Atlantic off the central coast but was forecast to begin moving slowly toward the west-northwest late Wednesday or early Thursday. It was then expected to cross back into northern Florida on Thursday, marking the third time the tropical storm came ashore in the state. At 11 p.m. EDT, Fay was 35 miles southeast of Daytona Beach and was picking up strength, with winds of 60 mph. The storm was expected to weaken as it moved back over land.

"Fay will be moving rather slowly during the next several days posing a significant heavy rainfall and flooding hazard to a very large area," the National Hurricane Center said.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from Fort Pierce to the Savannah River between Georgia and South Carolina. Tornadoes were also possible in northeastern Florida and southeast Georgia.

Nine homes in Glades in Hendry County were reported with minor damage and that two major roads in that city were under water.

In Key West, where the storm first moved into the state, there were reports of downed branches and some debris along roads. No flooding was reported.

Statewide, the American Red Cross has 22 shelters that are either open or on standby. Open shelters were not full, as few people were being evacuated. Many of those in the shelters were forced from their homes by flooding rather than high winds.

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