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Gordon not much help for drought

The storm dropped up to 4 inches of rain, leaving most of the area still 12 inches below normal for the year.

By ED QUIOCO

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 2000


Despite Hurricane Gordon's huffing and puffing, the drought-plagued region soaked up less rain than expected Sunday.

The storm bands moved northeast before they could dump the type of downpour needed to make up for the area's record drought. Most of the Tampa Bay area and North Suncoast received 1 to 4 inches of rain.

"It was a good rain, but not nearly enough," said Paul Close, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. "It rained hard for a while, but the storms just kept moving. We kind of missed out on the heavy rain."

Dry air from the west and southwest also wrapped around the storm bands over the Tampa Bay area and "dried the air enough so that we got some sunshine in the afternoon," Close said.

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties got 2 to 3 inches of rain, with some pockets getting slightly more.

"We can get that in an afternoon thunderstorm in 30 minutes sometimes," Close said.

Gordon dumped 1 to 3 inches of rain in Pasco, 3 to 4 inches on portions of Hernando County's coastline and 1 to 2 inches in most other areas of Hernando. Citrus County got 1 to 2 inches, with other areas getting slightly more.

Some of the heaviest rains fell south and southeast of the Tampa Bay area. Fort Myers, Sarasota and Sebring got 3 to 5 inches of rain and up to 10 inches in some areas.

The rain that hit the Tampa Bay area on Sunday probably will do little for the Floridan Aquifer, the underground reservoir that supplies most of the region's drinking water, said Michael Molligan, spokesman for the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

"It's definitely helpful," Molligan said. "Whether or not it is enough is doubtful. We had a lot to overcome."

Swiftmud has said it will not consider easing water-use restrictions until the Floridan Aquifer reaches the lower end of its normal range. Based on readings taken Wednesday, aquifer levels are about 10 inches below the lower end of the normal range in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties and about 19 inches below normal in Hernando and Citrus counties.

The first eight months of 2000 have been the driest since local records began in 1898. Tampa has received 23.87 inches of rain for the year, but that's still about 12 inches below normal.

The numbers look especially bleak considering that the dry season begins October.

"Our concern is we are coming up on the dry season and it looks like we are going into the dry season in a deficit," Molligan said.

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