Florida's brush with tropical storm Keith was far less damaging than expected, and civil defense officials said the encounter provided valuable experience in preparing the state for stronger storms in the future.

As a precaution, Gov. Bob Marinez declared a state of emergency as early as Tuesday for Florida's west coast, where Keith made landfall early Wednesday, but damage as the storm swept to the Atlantic was limited to beach erosion, downed trees, scattered power blackouts and flooded roads."Everybody braced themselves," said David Saniter with the Lee County Disaster Preparedness Agency. "They're still cleaning up," he said late Wednesday. "They're still trying to restore power to some areas."