Rain plentiful this week, but not replenishing

A collision of winds will create storms that pound the coast all week, but forecasters say the area needs a tropical system.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 19, 2000

The weekend's stormy light shows are expected to make repeat performances through this week, forecasters say.

Watch for evening thunderstorms in coastal communities, where east winds and the gulf breezes collide, causing an eruption of friction and electricity in the sky. The storms may pound the coast, where some of Florida's most drought-plagued counties are.

Yet even storms like the ones over the weekend, which spawned power outages, funnel clouds and a rare Tampa Bay water spout Sunday evening, don't go far in replenishing depleted water sources.

What the area really needs, forecasters say, is a tropical event -- preferably one that moves slowly and drops buckets of rain, but is otherwise harmless.

"The rain from a slow-moving tropical system could dump six to 10 inches," said Barry Goldsmith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "That would really put a nice little dent in the drought."

So far this year, Tampa has received 4.54 inches of rain. In a typical year, it receives 15.45 inches.

The storms that pummeled the Tampa Bay area Sunday night were as fast as they were strong, moving west at about 15 mph and capable of dumping 2 inches of rain in scattered areas.

The water spout briefly appeared on Tampa Bay just south of MacDill Air Force Base and was visible for miles, though it did no damage.

Most water spouts appear over the Gulf and are much rarer in Tampa Bay, requiring specific conditions to form, said Sanford Garrard with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

The storms also dropped pea-sized hail in St. Petersburg and kept rescue officials hopping Sunday night with fender benders and tree and transformer fires.

In Pasco County, the storms Sunday night brought 60-mph wind gusts, two reported funnel clouds and blinding lightning. Power outages were reported at the Embassy Hills and Regency Park subdivisions.

"Summer's here," Garrard said.

On Saturday, Clearwater received the most rainfall, with as much as 21/2 inches. The storms caused several power outages over the weekend in the region.

"Our guys were kept busy," TECO spokeswoman Laura Plumb said.

Expect more of the same.

Ron Morales, also a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the weather pattern in which winds collide turns an otherwise harmless line of showers into a severe storm.

The lightning storms have only begun, said Goldsmith with the National Weather Service.

"The kind of pattern we're in, we're likely to see storms like that five out of seven days this week," he said.

"If you live in any one location, you're either going to see rain right where you are, or you're going to see rain all around you."

-- Staff writers Ed Quioco, Matthew Waite and Michael Sandler contributed to this report.

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