(Aug. 20, 10:00 a.m.) FORT MYERS, Fla. — Tropical Storm Fay continues sweeping its way up Florida’s eastern coast.

The storm didn’t cause major damage to south Florida’s vegetable growing and shipping operations. Early reports indicate Fay causing little damage to the Indian River citrus groves near Fort Pierce and Vero Beach.

Fay rolled through the Indian River citrus growing region Tuesday night (Aug. 19) and Wednesday morning (Aug. 20) on its trek across Florida to the Atlantic Ocean.

As winds weakened to 45 mph, forecasters now say the storm may not become a hurricane when it reforms in the Atlantic before returning ashore in northern Florida.

The center of the storm was reported at Cape Canaveral Wednesday morning.

Hurricane watches were in effect for northern Florida and southern Georgia coastal areas.

The storm, which spawned many tornadoes along Florida’s East Coast, dumped more than 10 inches of rain and flooded many roads in St. Lucie County, in the heart of the Fort Pierce citrus growing region.

Once Fay is expected to cross back into Florida near Jacksonville, forecasters say it could move to the Gulf of Mexico and bring heavy rains to southern Georgia.

Jim Monteith, sales manager for Pacific Collier Fresh Co., Immokalee, Fla., said the agricultural production center escaped serious damage.

“There’s a lot of standing water around but no downed trees,” he said Wednesday morning. “I talked to a couple people here. Some of the Immokalee area had its electricity knocked out. Other than that, structure-wise, we’re fine. We fared pretty good.”

Telephone service, which had been out most of Tuesday, returned Wednesday morning while Internet service remained down, Monteith said.

Because most south Florida growers hadn’t started planting their crops, the deluge of rain only damaged plastic and field preparations.

Weather updates on Tropical Storm Fay can be found at www.noaawatch.gov/2008/fay.php and at www.weather.com/maps/news/atlstorm6/projectedpath_large.html.

Fruit, vegetable growers avoid major Fay damage
Torrential rains from Tropical Storm Fay deluged Indian River citrus groves. As the storm stalled over Florida’s Space Coast on Aug. 20, Fay dumped up to 13 inches of rain and caused severe flooding in Vero Beach and Fort Pierce. Still, the state’s citrus growers and south Florida’s vegetable growers say Fay caused little damage.