TAMPA — The wind and rain expected today won't stop the Gasparilla pirate invasion and parade, organizers said Friday.
But boaters, take heed.
Stay home if you have a small boat or a vessel that's open to the elements, officials say, or if you are inexperienced or prone to seasickness.
"With the wind and the waves that are going to exist in the bay, it will not be great conditions for a novice boater," Coast Guard Capt. Timothy Close said. "We will order people off the water if the boat they are in is improper or is not capable of handling the weather."
The National Weather Service has issued a small-craft advisory through this evening, and exposed areas of the bay are expected to be choppy.
The advisory means boaters aren't prohibited from being on the water, but they should be wary of rough seas, Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez said.
Close recommends that boaters have plans to land at backup locations if conditions get rough or someone starts to feel sick.
Also, pay close attention to the weather, because it's going to change as the day goes on.
Winds will be mild at breakfast, but they are expected to increase to 15 to 20 mph with even stronger gusts around mid-morning. That's right around when the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship and flotilla of recreational boats form at the south end of Hillsborough Bay.
The seaborne invasion takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the Parade of the Pirates is scheduled for 2 to 5:30 p.m.
Bring an umbrella or a poncho if you're one of the 200,000 to 250,000 people expected to converge on Bayshore Boulevard and downtown Tampa for the parade.
A band of rain is expected to move through the area between 2 and 8 p.m.
But the thing officials fear most is lightning, and that is not a significant part of the forecast.
"Right now we're not looking for much in the way of thunder and lightning," said Daniel Noah, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "However, if we end up with a few hours of sunshine, that could destabilize the atmosphere enough to have just a little bit more in the way of thunder."
That's a better forecast than city officials expected Friday.
"We are very encouraged by the news we're hearing," said Dennis Jones, Tampa's fire chief and emergency management director.
If conditions change and officials decide to cancel or halt the parade, they plan to spread the word through police officers on the route as well as the news media.
If necessary, officials plan to use four to eight buses parked near the neighborhoods along the route to shelter some paradegoers in rough weather, and they say they can bring in more buses if they need them.
A thunderstorm two years ago forced organizers to call off the children's parade, which is held on a different day from the main invasion.
But as far as Jim Tarbet knows, weather has never stopped the 106-year-old main parade.
"I'm just so excited that we're going to get this event on with so much work that goes into it by everybody," said Tarbet, executive officer of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, which organizes the parade.
"This is Tampa," said Capt. John C. Timmel, a harbor pilot who pilots the Jose Gasparilla. "We're all used to getting rained on. At this point, I don't think it's a safety issue whatsoever. It's maybe a matter of comfort."
Richard Danielson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3403.