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Manatee County confident in preparedness for heavy rainfall

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MANATEE County, Fla. -- Morning road closures in Bradenton and Palmetto could be a sign the county is approaching capacity. Still, emergency managers are optimistic as we potentially move towards more rainy days.

Most of south Tampa was still underwater Monday after more than a week of relentless rain.

Palmetto's Bruce Sexton isn't flinching.

"This is not flooding, this is nothing," says Sexton.

The two-year Palmetto resident grew up in Naugatatuck Valley, Conn., which he says would fill with 20 feet of water. Ever since, he's been very careful where he sets up camp, including his most recent home deliberately out of a flood zone, because he knows one of nature's hardest truths.

"You can't stop water, there's nothing you can do," warns Sexton.

Those around Sexton may not be as informed, and they are the primary focus of the county's evolving plan to combat the latest flood warnings.

"You can never plan for everything," says Manatee County Public Safety Director Robert Smith. "We like to think we're prepared as best that we can be at this point, and we're confident that we're prepared as best as we can at this point.

"Right now our biggest focus is on educating people on what they should do if they encounter high water."

High water caused some early morning shut downs on streets in Palmetto and Bradenton, which are two of the county's anticipated flood zones along with Myakka, Parrish and the barrier islands.

If the heavy rain persists, and we reach critical levels like our neighbors to the north, the islands will likely be the first to receive sandbags.

"The island communities work very well to provide their citizens with sandbags," says Smith. "If there's any level of that need, we'll make it publicly available to everybody to know where they can go or where they can seek those resources."

Manatee County public safety is betting on the county's infrastructure of natural and artificial drainage as they continue to monitor the weather.

"We try to deal with those things ahead of time, so when we get to a situation like this where we have raining and lots of water standing in areas, we're prepared to address it long before it happens," says Smith.

If things do get critical, Bruce Sexton's plan is simple:

He says, "I would protect myself more than anything else, and my dog."