Fay 'a good exercise' for Cedar Key

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By Jenna McKenna

"It was a good exercise."

City Commissioner Sue Colson was out driving around town early Saturday morning, checking out the debris trail left by Tropical Storm Fay and rejoicing that it wasn't worse.

"We were blessed," she said. "I just saw Robert (Fire Chief Robert Robinson) down by the firehouse, looking things over, and there goes James McCain (she waves at a passing truck) - all Cedar Key's babysitters are out here, checking up."

Just a few hours after Saturday morning's high tide, which was projected to carry along a four-foot surge, there was relatively little flooding in the area. G Street along the beach looked solid, and the only sign where water had crossed the street downtown was the bend at Dock Street and A Street. There, the corner was carpeted with sea grass, and clumps of grass stuck in the crossbars of the handrails between the outside boat ramp and the Seabreeze.

Colson and other city leaders say they feel sure at least part of the good outcome is due to perennial storm preparation. Floating docks were secured, sand bags were filled and potential projectiles were secured.

At 11 a.m. Friday, Fay was moving west from Gainesville, between Newberry and Trenton, and emergency management workers were trying to round up the floating docks. One got away from them, but was eventually captured and dragged into the inner marina, where both were secured in time for the storm's final march to the shore, a little south of Keaton Beach, where it returned to the Gulf early Friday evening.

"I do wish we'd gotten the floating docks a little sooner, but that's ok," said Colson.

Town Clerk Frances Hodges, speaking from City Hall Friday, said city workers were "watching and waiting," but were not overly concerned. The area did receive moderately high winds, and streets and yards were filled with the expected debris of palm skirts and blown-over planters.

In Rosewood, late Friday evening, a 30-foot pine toppled out of the saturated ground, snagging in a guide wire to an electric pole as it tried to fall across SR 24. The Rosewood Volunteer Fire Department and Levy County Roads Department guided traffic around the snag until Progress Energy trucks could arrive.

The Red Cross opened Cedar Key Community Center as an emergency shelter Friday night, but closed it Saturday morning when Levy County Emergency Management said that expected flooding problems had not materialized. As of 9 p.m. Friday night, shelter operators said they had had one call, but no people checking in.

Saturday morning, as Fay kept moving away to the northwest, winds slowed and trucks towing skiffs began to appear in the marina. Colson said she did feel some concern about the clam beds after the storm, due to the huge volume of freshwater dumped into the rivers.

"I worry about salinity," she said. "This storm produced a lot of rain, making the rivers rise, and I worry how it will affect our clams."

Kenny Collins wasn't too worried about his clams. He was tooling around the marina on a bicycle Saturday morning, putting a foot down occasionally when what was left of the wind gusted.

"I don't think the rain will be that much of a problem," he said. "It always rains a lot this time of the year."

Photo by Dave Colon

A mat of sea grass shows where Saturday's 6 a.m. high tide lapped over the corner of Dock and A streets as Tropical Storm Fay fled the area. Apart from streets decorated with debris, there was little damage.

Photo by Dave Colon

This 30-foot pine fell on a guide wire to the electrical pole due to heavy rain and saturated soil from Tropical Storm Fay. Rosewood Volunteer Fire Department guided traffic on SR 24 until Progress Energy arrived to remove the tree.

Photo by Dave Colon

Clammer Kenny Collins said he wasn't too worried about his clams after Tropical Storm Fay passed through the area. "It always rains a lot this time of year."