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Storms to take summer pattern

Heavy downpours won't go away, weather forecasters say, but expect them to arrive a bit later in the day as is typical this time of year.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 19, 2002

Heavy downpours won't go away, weather forecasters say, but expect them to arrive a bit later in the day as is typical this time of year.

A line of thunderstorms trailing a low pressure system dumped up to 2 inches of much-needed rain on the Tampa Bay area early Tuesday.

And there's more to come.

More storms are expected today and through the week, but weather forecasters said those would be thunderstorms common during June in west Florida. Expect highs to reach into the upper 80s and lows in the 70s.

"What we're going to switch to, for tomorrow and the rest of the week, is the more afternoon thunder showers, as opposed to the morning thunderstorms we've had this past week," said Richard Rude, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

The region has had about half its normal rainfall for the past eight months. Many welcomed the downpour.

Still, the storm caused a few problems in Hillsborough County.

There were reports of street flooding, including water reaching halfway up car doors on 22nd Street at the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. Tampa Electric Co. spokesman Ross Bannister said there were "a couple of hundred" reports of power outages.

The storm also arrived with a tornado warning.

The National Weather Service issued the warning after a storm produced gusty winds just after 9 a.m. Ten minutes after that warning, someone from Madeira Beach called forecasters and reported seeing a water spout 5 miles southwest of St. Pete Beach and moving toward land at 20 mph.

About that time, Cathi Gregory, a bartender at Woody's Waterfront Restaurant, got a frantic telephone call from the head waiter.

"She said, 'A twister's going to hit St. Pete Beach. Get on the floor if you have to,' " said Gregory, 43.

Instead Gregory, being a Floridian, walked outside and listened for a freight-train sound. All she saw were clouds moving in like a black sheet.

"We just got a wicked, wicked storm," Gregory said.

What might have been a tornado broke up as soon as it hit land, and police and fire departments across the area had no reports of injuries or damage to homes.

A band of storms out of the Southwest had been dumping heavy rains on the region on and off since last Friday.

Some areas of Tampa and St. Petersburg have received as much as 5 inches of rain since Friday. The average rainfall for Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties last June was 11.7 inches, according to Tampa Bay Water, the regional water supplier.

But water suppliers said the area is far from declaring the drought over.

"Well, certainly every little bit helps, but looking at it right now, from October through May, we were 8 inches below normal and only a portion of that goes down to the aquifer," said Michelle Robinson of Tampa Bay Water. The past week's storms have been wetter than normal because they have come from over the gulf. Meteorologist Paul Close said these storms are typically stronger and can happen any time.

-- Staff writer Ryan Meehan and researchers Kitty Bennett and Cathy Wos contributed to this report.

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