Residents should be wary of tornadoes, flooding and storm surges as fast-moving Tropical Storm Andrea passes through Florida but the most severe weather should be over by midnight, Gov. Rick Scott said during a press conference Thursday at the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
"We've talked to all the local emergency management teams and they're ready," Scott said. "The biggest ssue we have is we're under tornado warnings. We had eight tornadoes so far in the state." He said there have not been any reports of deaths or property damage caused by the storm.
FDEM Director Bryan W. Koon said that "tornadoes are popping up all over the place basically so it depends where they go." If the tornadoes hit a populated area, "this whole thing could be completely different," he said. So far tornadoes have been reparted in Hillsborough, Manatee, Broward, Palm Beach and Pinellas counties, Koon said.
The storm will bring "quite a bit of rain," Scott said, but "fortunately it's not going to be the same rain we had with Debby last year because it's a fast-moving storm," moving about 15 miles per hour. Florida's west coast is expected to experience three to five feet of storm surges moving toward Cedar Key.
As of 2 p.m., Andrea was about 35 miles west-southwest of Cedar Key, according to the National Weather Service, moving toward the Northeast about 17 miles per hour. Winds are reported at 60 miles per hour.
While the governor urged caution for the public, telling residents to get three days of water and food, he had brighter news for tourists. "Keep your travel plans, This is going to pass very quickly through our state.
Scott also used the press conference to take a shot at "President Obama's sequestration efforts."
"They are forcing 50 percent of our fulltime National Guard to be furloughed part of the time," Scott said. There are 2,000 full-time National Guard.
The sequestration refers to the budget cuts imposed because Obama and the Republican-controlled House couldn't agree on a plan to reduce the deficit in 2011.
Scott said the furloughs could cause a "dramatic impact on their readiness" in case of a hurricane. The National Guard is on standby, "but as this goes along they'll be less ready if we have a major storm." He said the Guard will lose training time and it will take "more days to get up to speed" should there be a disaster. National Guard officials said the furloughs don't start until July.
Scott also criticized the government for giving the Guard a "20 percent paycut." The governor said he sent a letter to Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson to request the Department of Defense "to change this."
When asked if Republican congressional members should take any of the responsibility, Scott said, "I'm responsible for the state of Florida. Whoever's responsible, they need to change." But he added that the Department of the Defense decided to institute furloughs just as hurricane season hits.
He also criticized "a 20 percent paycut for half of our national guard. ... It doesn't make any sense."
As for the storm, Koon said Andrea brings the potential of isolated heavy rainfalls that could cause some flooding. There's a concern about storm surges at Cedar Key. "A surge of five to six feet" may top the sea wall, "but not by much.
Koon said the majority of the rainfall is expected "from Taylor County down to Pasco County up through Jacksonville."
There's a risk of rip currents along the Gulf Coast through early Saturday and the North and Central Atlantic Coast.
The "biggest risk," Scott said was tornadoes and urged residents to stay tuned to the radio for warnings.
Andrea is expected to cross into southeastern Georgia and continue into the Carolinas.