TAMPA (FOX 13) - Tropical Storm Colin is passing the Tampa Bay area this afternoon, en route to an expected landfall along the state’s Big Bend area some time tonight. As the storm slides by, Central Florida can expect heavy rain, gusty winds, and isolated tornadoes.
As of the 5 p.m. National Hurricane Center update, Colin was just less than 200 miles west of Tampa, packing winds of 50 miles per hour. The storm was moving north-northeast at a brisk 23 miles per hour.
Most of the rain associated with the storm stayed offshore this morning, but as Colin got closer, heavier bands of rain were moving onshore in the Bay Area.
"The primary threat for north and west-central Florida is heavy rain. Training bands will lead to localized flooding, especially in low-lying areas. The Weather Prediction Center estimates up to 4 to 6 inches from coastal Manatee and Sarasota counties north up through Dixie county," FOX 13 meteorologist Lindsay Milbourne said. "Areas inland will see much less rainfall."
The passing storm will be pushing water onto the coast and up into Tampa Bay, increasing the chances for coastal flooding, especially at high tide. For most of the Bay Area, that will be early this afternoon.
“In addition to heavy rain and strong wind, the threat for rotation and brief spin-up tornadoes/waterspouts ramps up late in the day," Milbourne added.
As a precaution, Pasco County announced that schools would close early and officials asked residents to be home and off the road by 3 p.m. Pinellas County also announced that schools would close 90 minutes early.
Just after 11 a.m., the Florida Highway Patrol warned that the Sunshine Skyway Bridge was closed, with winds at the top gusting to 52 mph.
After making landfall along the Big Bend area tonight, forecasters expect Colin to cross into the Atlantic and brush the coast of the Carolinas.