Andrea lashes Alachua County with stiff winds, rain


Water from the Gulf of Mexico splashes onto the roadways as winds from Tropical Storm Andrea hit Cedar Key on Thursday.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 6:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 7, 2013 at 9:54 a.m.

(Updated at 9:38 a.m. Friday) COLUMBIA, S.C. — After bringing rains, heavy winds and even tornadoes to parts of Florida, Tropical Storm Andrea moved quickly across south Georgia and was speeding through the Carolinas on Friday morning, promising sloppy commutes and waterlogged vacation getaways through the beginning of the weekend.

Facts

Numbers to call

Here are some important contact numbers for Alachua County residents:
* To receive current information on the storm, call 311, the emergency management information/rumor control line.
* The county's non-emergency line is (352) 955-1818.
* Gainesville Regional Utilities: electrical outages, (352) 334-2871; gas outages, (352) 334-2550
* Clay Electric - 1-888-434-9844
* Florida Power and Light - 1-800-4OUTAGE
* Duke Power - (800) 228-8485
* Central Florida Electric Coop - (800) 227-1302 or 352-493-2511
* Alachua County Public Works (352) 374-5245 (from 7 a.m. to noon on Friday, this number will be active. After noon call the Sheriff's non-emergency line or 911 for emergencies)
* FDOT Gainesville Maintenance - (352) 381-4300

The first named storm of the Atlantic season lost some intensity after making landfall Thursday in Florida's Big Bend and its winds were down to 45 mph Friday.

Ben Nelson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, Fla., said Andrea (pronounced AN'-dree-ah) was "moving at a pretty brisk pace" and could lose its tropical characteristics Friday.

- The Associated Press

Andrea lashes Alachua County with stiff winds, rain

Andrea, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, belted North Florida with rain and high winds as it skirted Alachua County on Thursday night, taking aim at the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Even when it makes it to the Atlantic coast hours after making landfall just north of Cedar Key and moving across North Central Florida, Andrea was not expected to strengthen into a hurricane.

But late Thursday night, tropical storm warnings remained in effect for a large section of Florida's west coast as far north as the Steinhatchee River.

At 11 p.m. Thursday, Andrea was about 40 miles west of Jacksonville, with maximum sustained winds having fallen to 45 mph. The storm was moving toward the Atlantic coast at 15 mph.

The storm was responsible for mild flooding in and around Gainesville, with the heaviest rains occurring just before noon and again at around 5 p.m. By late Thursday night, slightly less than two inches of rain had fallen in Gainesville, according to the National Weather Service.

Among several water-logged trees that were toppled by the storm in Gainesville was one oak that crushed the front of a mobile home in Westgate Mobile Manor Park, 5816 SW Archer Road. Residents were inside the home when the tree fell but they escaped uninjured.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday, a large tree fell on Southwest 13th Street, blocking both northbound lanes and narrowly missing an occupied vehicle.

Gainesville had sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts as high as 45 mph, the weather service said. Blustery winds persisted well after nightfall Thursday.

In Cedar Key during the day on Thursday, Dock Street was inundated at high tide around 1 p.m. and police set up barricades to keep traffic away.

Police Chief Virgil Sandlin said crews had enough notice of the storm to secure floating docks and to pre-stage road barricades and pumps at streets likely to flood.

A city dock was destroyed by Tropical Storm Debby last year, but Sandlin said he does not expect such damage this year.

Still, Sandlin said the city took the storm seriously.

"Until this thing is on the East Coast, we'll take nothing for granted," Sandlin said. "I was here in '85 when Elena decided to park her butt off Cedar Key and it tore us up. You have to be prepared."

As Sandlin chased sightseers away from the sea wall by the main boat ramp around 3:30 p.m., he said conditions were becoming worse.

"Wow," he said. "We're getting winds every bit as high as 50 mph."

Wind-driven water washing up on the small public beach was causing considerable erosion. Sand blowing in the wind felt like BBs against the skin and walking was a challenge.

"High tide was two hours ago. If it was now, the whole area would be underwater," Sandlin said. "We just built that beach back and now much of it is gone."

In Gainesville and areas in the Suwannee River Valley, including Live Oak, officials braced for small-stream flooding. Gainesville authorities closed Southwest Depot Avenue in the 700 block at around 12:30 p.m. because of flooded conditions.

All day Thursday, emergency management officials were watching for storm surge.

"There is nothing extraordinary about this storm," said Lt. Scott Tummond of Levy County Sheriff's Office.

"We're just keeping an eye on high tide," he said. The storm surge in Cedar Key could reach 5 to 6 feet.

Cedar Key residents who needed sandbags were able to pick them up at the corner of Third Street and D Street.

Tummond said the emergency services departments had barricades ready in case the rising tide becomes a flooding issue.

David Peaton, director of Gilchrist County Emergency Services, said sandbags were made available at the Gilchrist County Emergency Operations Center, but residents had to fill the bags themselves.

Meanwhile, south Georgia residents were bracing for high winds and heavy rains once Andrea made it that far north.

On Cumberland Island off the Georgia coast, the National Park Service was evacuating campers as the storm approached Thursday.

"My main concern is the winds," said chief park ranger Bridget Bohnet. "We're subject to trees falling and limbs breaking, and I don't want anybody getting hurt."

Bohnet predicted the island would likely reopen to tourists Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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