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Summer slouches in, shrouded in gloom

Published June 21, 2003

Today is the summer solstice, and the sun will be in the sky for about 14.5 hours, the longest day of the year. But Tampa Bay area residents probably won't be able to see it in all its shining glory.

That's because the forecast for the first day of summer is positively gloomy, with an 80 percent chance of rain. That follows bad weather on Friday, with more rain over much of the area and a tornado warning issued for Pinellas County shortly after 5 p.m. Friday.

Almost a week of unusually stormy weather ushered out spring, and residents see the rain as a gift and a curse.

For Cheyenne Gomez of Tampa, summer is supposed to be a time to be outside, maybe do some gardening.

"It looks like housework this weekend," Gomez sighed as rain battered her business, the Li'l Taqueria, an outdoor kiosk offering rice and beans. "Real fun."

Berta Gilholm thinks the rain is simply a normal part of summer. Living in St. Petersburg for 54 years, Gilholm has seen a cycle of more rain during certain summers about every 10 years.

"Typically in mid to late June we start a rainy season anyway," said Rick Davis, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. Floridians usually experience sunny days with short periods of rain and thunderstorms in the evening, but recently there have been all-day downpours.

"I think it's a blessing," said Katrina Pappas of St. Petersburg. "We need as much rain as we can get because it's so hot."

The rainy weather began on June 18 with the funneling of tropical moisture from the southwest, said Davis.

"I believe we should see the sun again on Sunday," Davis said. But that won't be the end of the rain. We can look forward to a wetter summer season, he said.

According to the National Weather Service, Tampa had already surpassed its normal June rainfall by Friday. As calculated by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the entire region is closing in on its June average.

For June, the average rainfall in the northern part of Swiftmud's area, which includes Citrus and Hernando counties, is 7.33 inches. The average for the central region, which includes Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties, is 6.8 inches. As of Wednesday, the northern region had received 6.91 inches of rain, and the central region had received 6.15 inches.

- Times staff writer Phuong Nguyen contributed to this report.

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