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Emily prompts Florida state of emergency but weakens to depression

By Allen Cone and Ed Adamczyk

July 31 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 31 counties Monday but hours later Tropical Storm Emily weakened back a tropical depression as it passed through the western part of the state.

Emily, which became the fifth named storm of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season Monday morning, made landfall in Manatee County and was forecast to impact the west coast of Florida between Tampa Bay and Naples with heavy rainfall, the National Hurricane Center said.

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Up to 8 inches are possible in some locations, including 2 to 4 inches through Monday night, the center said.

Emily weakened to a tropical depression at 5 p.m. -- nine hours after it became a named storm -- as it moved across the Florida peninsula Monday night. Forecasters says it will move offshore of the east-central Florda coast Tuesday morning and into the Atlantic Ocean.

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No evacuation orders are in effect, the governor's office said, but the state of emergency "gives the state the flexibility to work with local governments to ensure they have all the resources they may need to prepare to respond to Tropical Storm Emily," according to a release.

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"It is so important that families remain vigilant," Scott said.

Emily is moving eastward with strong winds at about 12 mph with sustained winds of 35 mph, as of the NHC's 5 p.m. EDT advisory.

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There were no tropical storm watches or warnings in effect .

The Florida Highway Patrol closed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay at 11 a.m. when winds hit 60 mph but reopened at 2:20 p.m.

The tropical storm made landfall at about 10:45 a.m., on Anna Maria Island, near Bradenton.

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Power outages have been reported in Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties, the governor's office said.

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