MELBOURNE, Fla. Tropical Storm Fay hobbled across Florida for a fifth day Friday as the death toll from the lingering storm rose to five in the state.
Fay has dumped more than two feet of rain along parts of Florida's low-lying central Atlantic coast and was making its third pass through the state, nearing Cedar Key on the state's northwest coast with sustained winds weakening slightly to near 45 mph.
State officials tallied storm casualties Friday, saying three people died in traffic accidents in the heavy rain and two others drowned in surf kicked up by the storm. A sixth person died of carbon monoxide poisoning while testing generators just before the storm.
Two traffic deaths occurred in Duval County. officials said. A 16-year-old girl died when her car collided with an SUV after spinning on wet pavement Wednesday. A 44-year-old was killed when his truck rolled while going around a curve on a rain-soaked road Thursday.
A 43-year-old man died Wednesday in Indian River County when his vehicle spun and hit a traffic light post.
Two swimmers drowned in heavy surf Thursday on the Atlantic coast, a 21-year-old woman in Duval and a 35-year-old man in Volusia County.
A 54-year-old man died from carbon monoxide before the storm hit Florida while testing two generators Saturday in Highlands County.
Driving conditions on interstate highways in north Florida were difficult enough in a car, but Jim Frazier and Deb Fairchild were crossing the state on a motorcycle trying to get back to Illinois after a week in Daytona Beach.
"It's pretty brutal," said Frazier, 47, of Danville, Ill., adding the high winds have caused him to swerve several times on the highway.
Before Fay crosses the Panhandle over the weekend, it could bring four to eight inches in some areas, forecasters said.
President Bush issued a federal disaster declaration Thursday for the affected parts of Florida, as hundreds of residents fled floodwaters that drove alligators and snakes out of their habitats and into streets.
Emergency officials planned to begin surveying damage along the coast Friday as the floodwaters were expected to slowly recede. In Brevard and St. Lucie Counties, residents welcomed the sight of muddy brown water lines on homes signifying the receding of flood waters.
Friday morning, officials in Melbourne carried boats down streets where just a day earlier 4 feet of water made roads look like rivers. About 150 people in Brevard county were evacuated by authorities; 100 others left their homes voluntarily.
"You had people here who didn't want to leave but after a few days of being stranded, they were saying, 'OK, it's time to go,"' said Hector Rodriguez, who works for the private firm Critical Intervention Services, which was hired by property managers to assist with evacuations.
Water as high as several feet still remained in some parts of this neighborhood, but most of the area had drained, leaving behind a half-inch thick layer of muck and mud.
Ron Salvatore, 69, stood in his driveway Friday morning boiling coffee on a propane grill.
Power outages plagued the area. As of 6:15 a.m. Friday, Jacksonville Electric Authority reported 66,000 customers without power.
At 8 a.m., the storm's center was just west of Gainesville, about 60 miles northeast of Cedar Key and moving west near 6 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Its maximum sustained winds had decreased to near 45 mph from near 50 mph a few hours earlier and it was forecast to gradually weaken, while staying above the tropical storm threshold of 39 mph into Saturday.
The storm first made landfall in the Florida Keys earlier this week, then headed out over open water again before hitting a second time near Naples. It then advanced slowly across the state, popped back out into the Atlantic Ocean and struck again.
A tropical storm warning was posted for the Gulf coast of Florida from Aripeka in Hernando County to Indian Pass, and a tropical storm watch is also in effect from west of Indian Pass to Destin.
Associated Press writers Ron Word reported from Jacksonville; Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Curt Anderson, David Fischer and Tamara Lush reported from Miami; Bill Kaczor reported from Tallahassee; Russ Bynum reported from Savannah, Ga.; and Brendan Farrington reported from St. Augustine.