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Double deluge brings relief

The rain is by no means enough to end the drought, but officials say residents can turn off the lawn sprinklers for a while.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT and JORGE SANCHEZ

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 7, 2001


INVERNESS -- Citrus County residents witnessed some unfamiliar sights and sounds Tuesday night and again on Wednesday: the rumble of thunder, the crack of lightning and the rhythm of raindrops falling on their rooftops.

A strong line of thunderstorms rocked through east Citrus about 5 p.m. Wednesday, filling streets, sparking fires, downing tree limbs and setting off alarms at businesses and homes throughout east Citrus.

A car was reported in a retention pond in the Inverness area, a fire was sparked on S. Arabian Avenue and power lines were reported down on E. Slate Street. Trees were blocking roads on N. Osceola and Ella Avenue in Inverness according to Ronda Hemminger Evan, spokeswoman for the Citrus Sheriffs Department.

Wednesday's action was a repeat from the night before.

A powerful thunderstorm blew in from the south about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, dumping 3 to 4 inches of rain in about 90 minutes and providing a welcome relief for the drought-stricken area.

Overnight rainfall readings provided by the Southwest Florida Water Management District showed Ozello got 4 inches of rain, while Floral City and Inverness each received about 3 inches.

Another thunderstorm blew through the area Wednesday afternoon, bringing an unknown amount of rain and lightning.

The weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies today with about a 30 percent chance of rain. The weekend forecast, however, calls for a 60 percent chance of rain, and a good chance of a repeat of Tuesday's deluge.

There were no reports of major damage or accidents, according to checks with local law enforcement officials.

At Citrus Memorial Hospital, lightning caused temporary power outages and minor damage to an air conditioning system, said hospital spokeswoman Megan Carella. At the Inverness office of the Citrus Times, a lightning strike caused extensive damage to the Times' computer systems.

But the welcome news is that Citrus got some rain, which is normal for this time of year.

Tuesday's storm came at the beginning of the Florida rainy season, June through September, which produces about 60 percent of the annual rainfall of 53 inches.

Even with a normal rainy season, the dry conditions will remain.

"No, the drought is not over," said Michael Molligan, Swiftmud spokesman. "All a normal rainy season does is provide enough water to get us through the next dry season, which starts in October. Since water levels are so depleted, it's going to take much more than one rainy season, if we even get that. We've heard various weather forecasts."

Molligan also said the heavy rain means that lawn sprinklers should not be going off anytime soon. He called for a voluntary stop to sprinkling.

"With three inches of rain, there's absolutely no reason anyone should be watering their lawn for the next week or so," Molligan said.

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