Emily moves inland, weakens to tropical depression

7 Orlando-area counties under state of emergency

By Candace Campos - Meteorologist , Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. - Emily is a tropical storm no more. The National Hurricane Center said Emily lasted only a few hours as a tropical storm after forming earlier Monday in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida.

As of 5 p.m. EDT Monday, Emily was downgraded to a tropical depression though forecasters said heavy rain is still possible across southeastern Florida as the ill-defined system heads toward the Atlantic coast in coming hours. The Miami-based center said 1 to 2 inches of rain are possible in the region, with totals of up to 8 inches possible in some isolated spots.

The storm system was centered Monday afternoon about 30 miles northwest of Sebring in south-central Florida and moving toward the east-northeast at 12 mph. The center says the storm's top winds had dropped to near 35 mph and some additional weakening is possible as Emily moves across the central Florida peninsula overnight.

Forecasters said Emily should enter the Atlantic by Tuesday, with some slow strengthening in the forecast once the storm system is back out over open water.

A tropical storm warning along Florida's Gulf Coast has been discontinued.

Orange, Seminole, Brevard, Osceola, Lake, Polk and Sumter counties are among the 31 of the state's 67 counties included in the state of emergency, declared by Gov. Rick Scott, which gives the state the flexibility to work with local governments to ensure they have all the resources they may need.

Forecasters said Emily was expected to dump between 2 to 4 inches of rain through Monday night between the Tampa Bay area and Naples, with isolated amounts up to 8 inches in spots. Lesser amounts were predicted elsewhere.

[READ:  Tropical Storm Emily impacts county-by-county]

"Upon learning of this tropical system from the National Hurricane Center, the state of Florida immediately engaged to prepare for any potential storm impacts," Gov. Rick Scott said.

Flanked by Florida National Guard members and others at an afternoon news conference, Scott said 18,000 homes and businesses were without power. Most outages were reported in Manatee County.

"Every family needs to get their power back," said Scott, adding that all the power companies were working to restore power in their respective areas.

No evacuation orders have been issued in Florida.

"Hopefully, this moves quickly across state, but we are getting a lot of rain," said Scott, prompting motorists to drive safely.

"Look out for flooded roadways and remember (the phrase): turn around, don't drown," he said.

Sandbags are available for Orlando residents from noon to 6 p.m. Monday at the city's Streets and Stormwater Division at 1010 Woods Ave. Individuals must show proof of residence and can get six bags per address.

Tropical storm warnings remain in effect for Charlotte and Lee counties. 

Legoland Florida in Winter Haven closed its water park Monday because of inclement weather.

The forecast for Central Florida shows off and on rain showers throughout most of the day. The cloud cover will keep highs in the Orlando area in the mid-80s.

As the systems exits the region, a typical summertime pattern will return.

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"Highs will begin to warm back into the low 90s with a 40-50 percent chance of pop-up afternoon thunderstorms," Campos said.

Emergency support functions by state emergency response team

MILITARY SUPPORT
• The Florida National Guard stands ready to support hurricane preparedness and response with guardsmen ready to be deployed if needed.

POWER OUTAGES AND UTILITIES
• Outages have been reported in Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties.
• Utilities have been put on notice to start reporting outage and restoral information when notified to begin.
• Utilities are contacting their mutual aid partners to determine availability if external resources are needed to restore services.
• Monitoring the power grid for sufficient power in the state and the natural gas infrastructure for any damages that can cause a loss of service to power plants.

LAW ENFORCEMENT
• The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) has a 250-person response team ready to deploy as needed to assist with road closures, directing traffic in the event of power outages and respond to any call for service as needed by local law enforcement agencies. 
• FHP has closed all lanes of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge due to high winds. The Howard Frankland Bridge remains open.
• The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other partnering agencies are identifying resources for deployment if necessary to respond to the storm.

SHELTERS
• The American Red Cross is on standby to conduct shelter operations in Pinellas and Indian River counties.

INFRASTRUCTURE: TRANSPORTATION & PUBLIC WORKS
• The state is monitoring the storm and holding teleconferences with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) districts and agency partners - Army Corps of Engineers, Water Management Districts, Civil Air Patrol and Federal Highway Administration to ensure all infrastructure needs are met.
o Asset maintenance contractors have been alerted;
o FDOT district offices are reaching out to construction vendors to have them remove any materials that block roads to facilitate evacuations;
o Florida's Turnpike Enterprise is ensuring that service plazas along the Florida Turnpike have Road Rangers and fuel;
o Additional fuel, Road Rangers and resources such as variable message boards to guide evacuees are on standby; and
o The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) has made contact with local troops in preparation for supporting evacuations in the major corridors, south to north and east to west.
• Army Corps of Engineers and Water Management Districts are monitoring waterways and are prepared to adjust flows as necessary.
• FDOT is actively monitoring for roadway flooding and stands ready to respond as needed.
• FDOT is preparing evacuation routes, maintenance yards, construction zones, equipment and staff; testing and inventorying equipment; placing emergency crews on standby; reviewing emergency plans; preparing construction zones; and monitoring flood prone areas.
• FDOT will continue to reach out to county emergency operations centers directly to coordinate any necessary response actions including activating traffic counters, providing local evacuation support and providing maintenance of traffic and other assistance.

BUSINESS, INDUSTRY, & ECONOMIC STABILIZATION
• The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) created an event in Florida Virtual Business Emergency Operations Center (FLVBEOC) for Tropical Storm Emily and it is currently up to date with storm info, including press releases/situation reports. DEO and DEM continue to provide situation awareness to private sector partners.
o FLVBEOC is available at www.flvbeoc.org
• VISIT FLORIDA has activated the Weather Alert ribbon on the VISITFLORIDA.com homepage and the Florida Now resource landing page

FUELS
• The state is contacting fuel industry partners (e.g., Florida Petroleum Council, Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association); there are no reported supply, distribution or retail fuel shortages or issues.
• The state is monitoring fuel assistance requests; currently there are no requests for assistance.
• The state has contacted emergency fuel and equipment provider for status of emergency fuel supply and equipment.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS
• At this point, there are no out of ordinary reports of any major outages.
• The state is monitoring fuel assistance requests; currently there are no requests for assistance.

SOUTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT
Field Station readiness actions include the following:
• Lake Okeechobee water levels indicate that no discharges should be necessary. Lake levels will continue to  be monitored.
• Inspecting key parts of the flood control system and critical flood control structures.
• Inspecting canals and levees for any obstructions.
• Inspecting heavy equipment.
• Ensuring adequate fuel supplies for pump stations and other equipment.
• Securing items vulnerable to high wind at pump stations and laydown yards in Homestead, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
• The Florida Department of Environmental Protection surveyed beaches throughout entire Florida west coast and is reaching out to state parks to assess needs.
• No state parks are closed at this time.

CONTACTS:
• State Emergency Operations Center Media Line: 850-921-0217.
• Follow @FLSert or @FLGovScott on Twitter for live updates on Tropical Storm Emily.
• Visit http://www.floridadisaster.org to find information on shelters, road closures, and evacuation routes.

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