Major Incidents, News, Trauma

Tropical Storm Fay: State of Emergency

ORLANDO — Tropical Storm Fay made landfall again Thursday, bringing torrential rain, floods, power failures and road closures to Orlando-area communities previously unscathed.

The slow-moving system sent DeBary residents scrambling to bail water out of their living rooms and put Volusia County streets under waist-deep water. It shut down major roads in Seminole County, closed the emergency entrance of a hospital and stranded residents in their homes. Late Thursday, a dike failed on the Wekiva River, sending more than 100 Lake County residents to a shelter.

In Deltona, a flash flood filled Santos Latorre’s home with 8 to 10 inches of water.

“It was just like a river flowing into my house, went through my house, and flowed right into my neighbor behind me,” said Latorre, who has lived on Elwood Street for 10 years.

“Now everything is ruined,” he said.

Thursday’s troubles were just the latest caused by the dawdling storm. After coming ashore Tuesday in southwestern Florida, Fay deluged southern Brevard County with more than 2 feet of rain, causing at least $10 million to $12 million in damage as it drifted into the Atlantic Ocean, according to early estimates.

Fay then turned north and west, washing ashore again about 2:30 p.m. Thursday near Flagler Beach, just north of the Volusia line. Forecasters say it will spend today dumping wind and rain across the northern half of the state on a path to the Florida Panhandle.

Although the rain and winds will let up, the storm’s size means the region won’t dry out until the weekend. Floods remain a serious threat because the ground is soaked from days of rain.

“It’s a big, kind of sprawling storm,” said Daniel Brown, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Service near Miami.

It’s also dangerous. FatmiraKrkuti, 35, of Brooklyn, N.Y., drowned about 2 p.m. while swimming in waist-deep water with her husband a block south of Seabreeze Boulevard in Daytona Beach. A powerful wave struck them both, Volusia County Beach Patrol Capt. Scott Petersohn said.

The husband, whose name wasn’t available, said he felt disoriented after getting hit, but his wife failed to resurface. Her body was found about 50 to 75 feet north by the shore break.

“We’re patrolling the beach to tell them it’s dangerous to go past your knees,” he said. “But it is what it is.”

Farther north in Neptune Beach, police said an Indiana tourist drowned after going swimming in the rough ocean. Two men swimming with the 21-year-old woman, whose name was not released, made it back to shore.

Wide spread power outages were reported Thursday night.

In Seminole, 17,100 homes were without power. In Brevard, the number was 5,900. In Volusia and northwest Orange, nearly 35,000 customers were in the dark. Only 3,400 in Lake and 1,000 people in Orlando had no electricity.

Florida Power & Light warned that some customers in Brevard and east Volusia counties might not see their power restored for up to 36 hours after the storm passes.

“We’re still battling floods and severe weather,” FPL spokesman MaycoVillafana said. “Our crews are working where it’s safe to do so.”

President Bush declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon, freeing the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to help. Gov. Charlie Crist stopped in Brevard to review the situation and express sympathy to flood victims.

Fay’smove to the west gave a welcome reprieve to Brevard, where hundreds of people had to evacuate their water-soaked homes. County officials said flooding will continue to be a major problem during the next several days.

Near Cocoa, Lisa Dees, a 44-year-old mother, stood outside her home on Stratford Drive and watched the water inch closer to her single-story house, courtesy of an overburdened canal down the street. Already, her neighbors’ homes were under 3 feet of water, and their toilets were overflowing.

Nearby, people stomped through the water carrying chicken-and-rice meals collected from a Salvation Army truck.

“Mother Nature is going to do what she wants to do, and we have to sit back and wait until she’s done,” Dees said.

As the afternoon progressed, conditions in Lake, Volusia and Seminole deteriorated.

About 100 residents of a mobile-home park along the Wekiva River were ordered to evacuate their homes about 9:30 p.m. because of rising floodwaters, said Christopher Patton, Lake County’s public-information coordinator. The residents were moved to Round Lake Elementary School near Mount Dora for the night as a precaution.

The mobile-home park, known as Wekiva Falls Park, is off State Road 46 in east Lake, which was deluged with rain. The waters rose when a dike apparently gave way. No injuries were reported.

In Sanford, city crews barricaded some of Mellonville Avenue because of flooding. Authorities closed water-covered roads in Winter Springs and Oviedo, and torrential rain snarled traffic.

In Orange City, ambulances were diverted to other hospitals Thursday evening after a parking lot flooded at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial, blocking access to that facility’s emergency room. The emergency room remained accessible from the hospital’s main entrance, however, spokeswoman Debi McNabb said.

Public-works crews were trying to divert the water away from the entrance. The hospital also hired an Orlando company to pump water off its property, and it was removing 15,000 gallons a minute, McNabb said.

“It’s still raining, and the water is still coming,” she said.

The worst flooding appeared to be in DeBary and Deltona, which have had chronic problems with water.

As many as a dozen Deltona homeowners were coping with the severe flooding at various trouble spots throughout the city.

Piedmont Drive had as much as 3 feet of water still standing in the street, and it flowed into at least one home. Other flooded streets included Wheeling Avenue and Bloomfield Avenue.

In DeBary’s Glen Abbey Golf Club subdivision, trash cans floated in the streets filled with waist-deep water. Homeowners raced to save their homes, digging trenches and improvising sandbags out of plastic bags and backyard dirt.

Puddles grew to full-blown floods in a few hours. Elizabeth Perkins of Deltona came to the subdivision to help her parents at 1:30 p.m. By 4 p.m., the area was underwater.

“This is just a constant mess of rain,” Perkins said.

Some residents’ efforts came too late. Near the entrance to the Glen Abbey golf course, Kim McLaughlin, 42, and her daughter Bailie, 12, hoisted furniture onto glue buckets as the garage and living room of their Pine Meadow Drive home filled with water.

“We’re done. There’s no saving us,” an exasperated McLaughlin said. With each passing car, waves of water flowed into their garage.

What to expect
Wind: Coastal Volusia and north Brevard can expect winds of 15 to 20 mph with gusts to 35 mph. Inland Volusia, south Brevard and northern Lake counties can expect winds of 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. Orange, Seminole and south Lake counties will get winds of 10 to 15 mph. Osceola will have winds of 5 to 10 mph.

Rain: Brevard, Volusia, Lake, Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties will experience showers and isolated thunderstorms today.

Flooding: The main threat is from north of Kissimmee to Titusville; Sanford and Oviedo are in particular danger. All of east Central Florida should be alert during the next few days.