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March rain slakes tenacious drought


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 31, 2001

The end of March glimmered with rain and hope for an improved drought index in Florida.

A major storm system Thursday and early Friday produced substantial rainfall throughout Central Florida, with more than five inches reported in many locations around the Tampa Bay area.

The three inches reported Thursday at Tampa International Airport broke a record for rainfall on March 29, set in 1987. The previous record was 2.71 inches.

As a result, state agriculture officials lifted the ban on outdoor burning in the last 18 counties where it was still in effect. They cautioned, however, that residents need to check with local authorities before doing any outdoor burning.

The late March rains came with a price: On Thursday, tornadoes, lightning and rain ripped through Central Florida, causing scattered damage.

But the rains also helped March become the first month in nearly a year that has had above-average rainfall.

So far, March rainfall totals 4.73 inches, compared to a March 2000 rainfall of 0.41 inches.

But more rain is needed.

This weekend, the National Weather Service predicts scattered showers and highs in the upper 70s for Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. The chance of rain today and Sunday is 50 percent. The chance of rain is slightly less in Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties.

Monday is expected to bring out the sun, and the sun is expected to stay. The average monthly rainfall for April is 1.15 inches -- the lowest of any month.

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