ST. PETERSBURG — The squall came fast and furious.
It was strong enough to rattle boats along the city's waterfront, yet quick enough to only briefly darken the skies.
Mail carrier Tommy Albritton probably wouldn't have noticed the burst of bad weather except for this: While he stopped for a bathroom break Tuesday afternoon, it swallowed his bike.
Or, more accurately, it ripped the bike from a dock at the city's marina and dumped it — and a chunk of mail — into the water.
At first, authorities feared someone had stolen the yellow cruiser outfitted with a large metal bin on the front. Albritton, 60, went to the marina's office.
Marina and port operations supervisor Joan McGowan offered to let him watch the security footage.
At 1:53 p.m., the video shows, Albritton, who has worked for the Postal Service for 30 years, rode up to the marina's north dock house, parked his bike and went inside to deliver and collect mail and use the restroom.
The skies were blue.
But by 2:10 p.m., a squall had moved through. The water seemed to rumble, and a gust of wind kicked the bike over and into the waves.
A minute later, Albritton emerged from the building. His bike had vanished.
After authorities discovered what happened, city staffers and others nearby helped pluck the bike out of the water. For about two hours, they used hooks, a diver and even a boat to scour the seafloor — at least 10 feet down — for lost mail. The "debris field" stretched a few hundred feet from the dock, officials said.
Postal Service spokeswoman Enola Rice said that luckily, Albritton had already delivered most of the mail for that section of his route. Any wet mail was dried and sent on for delivery.
"It was the weirdest thing," said McGowan, who has been at her job about a dozen years. "I've seen some things … but this was just strange."