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Fay inches across saturated Florida; two drown

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FLAGLER BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Fay was moving across northern Florida at a walking pace Thursday night, dropping heavy rain and threatening to stick around for at least another day in a state already struggling with flooding.

Authorities said the storm, whose center re-entered the state Thursday after spending hours off Florida's Atlantic coast, contributed to Thursday's drownings of two women: one swimming off Neptune Beach and another who was in water off Daytona Beach.

That brought to three the number of Florida deaths attributed to Fay.

Heavy rain flooded homes and roads, leading President Bush on Thursday to declare a state of emergency for Florida, a move freeing federal funds to aid disaster relief efforts.

Some east-central coastal areas of Florida had received 20 to 30 inches of rain by 11 p.m. Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said. Watch a mail truck forge through floodwaters

An additional 5 to 10 inches could fall across central and northern Florida, southern Georgia and southeastern Alabama, with isolated amounts of 15 inches, the hurricane center said.

At 11 p.m. Thursday, a tropical storm warning was issued for Florida's Gulf Coast from Aripeka north and west to Indian Pass. Fay's center was expected to cross northern Florida slowly on Friday and be near or over the coast of the Florida Panhandle Friday night and Saturday, according to the hurricane center.

A tropical storm warning also was in effect on the Atlantic coast from Sebastian Inlet north to the Savannah River at the Georgia-South Carolina line. Tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 175 miles.

The storm's center made its third U.S. landfall Thursday afternoon at Flagler Beach after being stationary and hammering the same parts of Florida's Atlantic coast with rain for hours.

Shortly before 11 p.m., Fay's center was about 25 miles west-northwest of Daytona Beach, moving west at 2 mph. The storm had sustained winds near 60 mph, the hurricane center said.

Dozens of people were leaving flooded parts of the Melbourne area in eastern Florida on Thursday, CNN affiliate WFTV reported. Melbourne had received more than 26 inches of rain by 5 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. Watch a family navigate their flooded neighborhood

Officials in Melbourne estimated the storm caused up to $12 million in damage and that about 80 neighborhoods had some of flooding. Hundreds of homes in south Melbourne were reported to have as much as 4 feet of water inside.

Florida National Guard members were helping rescue people from flooded areas, Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett said.

In Palm Coast, about 7 miles north of Flagler Beach, resident Rob Magill said benches on a dock near his home were partially submerged Thursday afternoon.

"The water has covered the beach; there isn't really any beach left at all," he said.

By Thursday morning, Cape Canaveral, where NASA employees stayed away for a third day, received 20.03 inches of rain and Palm Shores 19.57 inches, the weather service's forecast office said.

In Cape Canaveral, Louise Mills said she was trapped but comfortable in her condominium.

"We haven't been out since Tuesday because of the bad driving," she said. "It was hard to see because of all of the rain. But we have plenty of canned food." Watch Mills' son wade through water to check on her.

She didn't really know that she was stranded until she and a friend tried to go to church Thursday morning.

"As far as we know, we can't leave our condominiums to get to [Highway] A1A because the police are blocking it," she said.

Mills' condo is on the third floor of a building two blocks from the ocean, she said.

"I'm up here. I'm not unfortunate. I can cook a hamburger. I've got power. I feel very blessed," she said.

Al Lewis just moved from Massachusetts to Velano Beach, near St. Augustine, in June. "It's a little different," he said.

Lewis shot photos of a 60-foot yacht that was grounded by the storm and then battered to bits by the pounding surf. Video Watch what Fay did to a 100-year-old yacht »

"Wreckage was strewn for about a mile down the beach," he said.

Ana M. Viamonte Ros, secretary of the Florida Department of Health, warned residents of the dangers of playing in flooded areas because of raw sewage, downed power lines, mosquitoes and animals seeking higher ground.

Catfish on the runway kept a Delta Air Lines flight from landing on time at Melbourne International Airport on Wednesday, WFTV reported.

Airport crews also encountered two gopher tortoises, a blue indigo snake and an alligator, WFTV reported.

An Army truck rescued Johann Vandaalen and her husband and pets from their Melbourne home Wednesday night.

"We don't live in a flood zone, but it just came in and came in and came in," Vandaalen told CNN affiliate WESH.

Thursday's drownings came a day after Gov. Charlie Crist announced Florida's first known death related to Fay. A 54-year-old man died from carbon monoxide fumes as he tested two gasoline-powered generators in his home in Highlands County, northwest of Lake Okeechobee in eastern Florida, Crist said, quoting the county's medical examiner.


Two to 4 inches of rain were possible across coastal areas of southern South Carolina and an additional 1 to 2 inches over southwest and southern Florida, the hurricane center said at 11 p.m. Thursday.

Storm surge flooding could be up to 4 feet above normal tides off the east coasts of Florida and Georgia.

CNN's Sean Morris and John Zarrella contributed to this report.

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