In wake of Tropical Storm Colin, Florida remains alert for flooding

National Hurricane Center

A fast-moving Tropical Storm Colin departed Florida early Tuesday, leaving in its wake a sloppy mess.

Flooding continued in parts of Tampa and the west coast after thousands lost power overnight. The storm’s brisk pace — by late Tuesday afternoon it was zipping along at 40 mph — may have spared the state some damage from the storm’s heavy rain. But a lingering flow of moist air is expected to bring more rain, adding some uncertainty to what’s expected in upcoming days.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said Colin had moved away from east coast of the U.S., although it still continued to push tropical storm force winds about 240 miles out, mostly to the southeast.

A day after the storm sailed past the west coast, much of the area remained under a flood watch, with forecasters warning that “extremely saturated” ground in the region could cause flooding in low lying or flood-prone areas through Wednesday. The watch extended to East and Central Florida, including St. Lucie and Martin counties where National Weather Service forecasters said Colin’s trailing bands could dump heavy rain, especially south of I-4.

South Florida will also likely continue to get rain fed by the same moist air flow from the western Caribbean that helped fuel Colin, the third storm of a season that started just a week ago.

“Even when Colin goes away completely, there’s still this flow of moist air a couple hundred miles wide that may slip down over South Florida,” Andrew Hagen, an interim forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Miami office, said Tuesday morning. “We’ll have to see how that evolves day by day.”

Water managers are also keeping a close watch on Lake Okeechobee, which rose eight hundredths of a foot overnight to 14.4 feet, above normal heading into the wet season. If more rain falls over Central Florida, and into the Kissimmee River basin, it could raise lake levels even more and prompt another round of flushing into coastal estuaries already hammered by a wet winter and repeated releases.

In their 5 p.m. and last advisory for the storm, hurricane forecasters reported that Colin was located about 205 miles east, northeast of Cape Hatteras with sustained winds of 60 mph.

On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in parts of the state as the sprawling storm headed north, whipping the coast with its outer bands before coming ashore near the Big Bend area at midnight. The storm dumped nearly 10 inches of rain on some cities. Parts of Pinellas County on the Gulf Coast saw nine inches of rain, while other areas, from Levy to Sarasota counties, received one to six inches of rain in a 24-hour period, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.

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

There were no reports of major damage in Florida, but about 10,000 lost power from Tampa Bay to Jacksonville.

With the state on alert for a Zika outbreak, the state Department of Health is also urging residents to remember to dump standing water where mosquitoes breed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.