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Tropical Storm Eta Floods Florida Homes, Businesses and Shuts Down Streets; 1 Person Electrocuted

Published in 12 November, 2020

At a Glance

  • A Bradenton Beach man was electrocuted when he touched an appliance in standing water, police said.

  • Floodwaters shut down roads across the Tampa Bay area.

  • People had to be rescued from flooded homes in a number of locations.

Residents of Florida’s central Gulf Coast woke up Thursday to inundated streets and flooded homes after a night of pounding rain and wind from Tropical Storm Eta.

The storm made landfall at 4 a.m. near Cedar Key, about 85 miles northwest of Tampa. However, rain bands from Eta began drenching the state long before that. Flooding was reported across Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

At least one death in Florida has been blamed on the storm. A man in Bradenton Beach was electrocuted Wednesday evening when he touched an appliance in standing water, Bradenton Beach Police Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz told WFLA.

“It was an accident,” Diaz said. “I’m sure he didn’t realize the appliance was plugged in or the appliance was underwater and that’s what happens it’s a scary situation.”

Blowing water forced the Courtney Campbell Causeway, which crosses Old Tampa Bay from Tampa to Clearwater, to close overnight. The Sunshine Skyway bridge, which crosses the mouth of Tampa Bay, also closed. Eastbound lanes on the Courtney Campbell remained closed Thursday morning, but the Skyway reopened shortly after 8 a.m., according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

(MORE: Tropical Storm Warnings Remain in Effect in Florida and Georgia)

A mobile home park in St. Petersburg flooded, and some residents were unable to evacuate after the floodwaters cut off the road leaving the park, WTVT reported. A nearby apartment complex also flooded, and water was several inches deep in some units.

Neighborhoods that are prone to flooding in typical rainstorms were particularly hard hit. Streets throughout Shore Acres were filled with water.

Storm surge sent water into homes and businesses on barrier islands in surrounding Pinellas County.

The Sheriff’s Office said its High Water Rescue Teams rescued 33 people from homes and roadways. Most of the rescues occurred in the area from Pass-a-Grille in south St. Pete Beach north to Madeira Beach, according to a news release. No injuries were reported.

Businesses in the town of Gulfport on the southern end of the county also were flooded. Water was knee-deep in one bar, according to WTSP, which reported that several stores were flooded.

At least five sailboats broke free and crashed against a sea wall or beached on the sand in Gulfport, WTVT reported.

To the south in Manatee and Sarasota counties, Long Boat Key Fire Rescue evacuated five to seven people on Longboat Key after Eta flooded their homes on Wednesday evening, WFLA reported.

Eta’s winds ripped the roof off a home in a Venice mobile home park, WTVT reported. City officials closed the nearby Venice fishing pier.

Roadways across Hillsborough County also flooded and numerous trees were down.

Water crept out of Tampa Bay and into neighborhoods along Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard.

Tampa International Airport, which suspended operations Wednesday afternoon, reopened Thursday morning earlier than expected.

Eta made its first landfall on Nov. 3 in Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane, then dumped torrential rainfall over Central America for days, leaving dozens of people dead or presumed dead in its wake. The storm moved into the Caribbean and across the Cayman Islands before making landfall in the Florida Keys Sunday night as a much weaker tropical storm.

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