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Tropical storm forms on Day 1

Barry brings wind, rain on opening day of the hurricane season.

By MICHAEL KRUSE
Published June 2, 2007


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Well, we need the rain, right?

Tropical Storm Barry brought wet, windy weather to the Tampa Bay area Friday evening, and is expected to do more of the same today.

Early Saturday morning, Barry was headed northeast at nearly 10 mph, with maximum winds measured at nearly 50 mph. It was expected to weaken today, said Dave Roberts, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The storm formed on the first day of what forecasters are predicting will be an active hurricane season.

Barry could make landfall as early as this afternoon anywhere from the Tampa Bay area to the Panhandle. The tropical storm warning for Barry stretches up the Gulf Coast from Bonita Beach to Keaton Beach in the Big Bend.

Local emergency management officials seemed most worried Friday night about the high tide this afternoon around 2:30 and a potential 3- to 5-foot storm surge.

"We're just beefing our staff up by a couple people," said Rich Mason, the supervisor of Pinellas County Emergency Communications in Clearwater. "Hopefully it'll be just a rain event and that'll be it.

The Hurricane Center is expecting dangerous waves, coastal flooding of up to 5 feet and rainfall of up to 6 inches from the Keys to southeast Georgia. The National Weather Service in Ruskin says the rain should clear this afternoon.

"I got people on standby if needed," said Pasco County Emergency Management director Jim Martin.

The National Weather Service expects 13 to 17 named storms this year. Seven of them could become hurricanes, forecasters say, and three to five of those could turn severe.

The first named storm of the year formed more than three weeks ago. Subtropical Storm Andrea developed about 150 miles northeast of Daytona Beach.

The weather sparked several transformer fires in Pinellas County on Friday evening that left 11,000 customers without power. Most of the power was restored within a few hours.

The organizers of a Taste of Pinellas canceled the first evening of the weekend-long event in Vinoy Park, and activity in downtown St. Petersburg seemed slower than on a typical Friday night. But Jonny Lang still played in the courtyard in Jannus Landing, and people were sitting at tables outside under overhangs at the Havana Room and the Independent.

In Tampa, Hillsborough County Emergency Management was not expecting to have to order any evacuations, open any shelters, or activate the Emergency Operations Center, according to agency spokeswoman Holley Wade.

Same deal in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.

Pasco's Hurricane Expo, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today at Gulfview Square Mall in Port Richey, was still on. Hernando's Hurricane Expo, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., was still on as well.

Just in time for Barry.

"It's something you need to watch," said Pasco's Martin. "It doesn't appear to be a wind event. It appears to be a potential surge event."

"The high tide will be the only issue," said Tom Leto, the emergency management director in Hernando County.

Friday night at the Publix downtown in St. Petersburg? Business as usual.

Same at the Home Depot on N Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. Assistant manager Lee Goodman said the store was fully stocked with hurricane supplies.

"We sold a few generators and a lot of the weather radios, but nothing like a blitz now," he said.

If Barry remains a tropical storm, it would be one of the earliest named storms to make landfall in the United States since the Hurricane Center began keeping track.

Tropical Storm Allison made landfall at St. Teresa on June 5, 1995, after it formed in the gulf two days earlier as a hurricane and then lost speed. Other early storms: Tropical Storm Arlene, which hit just west of Pensacola on June 10, 2005, and Tropical Storm Alberto, which made landfall about 50 miles southeast of Tallahassee on June 13 of last year.

Pinellas interim emergency management director Sally Bishop said Barry was a wake-up call to be ready for this hurricane season.

"This is already the second storm of the season so far," Leto said. "It only takes one."

Times staff writers Rebecca Catalanello and Anne Lindberg contributed to this report, which used information from the Associated Press. Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts: The forecast
Today: High 85, low 71. Chance of rain 70 percent.
Sunday: High 89, low 73. Chance of rain 20 percent.
Monday: High 90, low 74. Chance of rain 20 percent.

[Last modified June 2, 2007, 07:58:48]


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