SPRING HILL — Several fallen trees, some sporadic outages, a couple of small fires. They were all — for the most part — a small price to pay for the much-needed downpour Tuesday that soaked Hernando County.
"Certainly, any rainfall is extremely helpful right now," said Robin Felix, spokeswoman for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. "We need more days like this."
Indeed. In a region suffering through a three-year drought and 30-inch rainfall deficit, any little bit will do. Forecasters at the National Weather Service said Tuesday's rains in the Nature Coast were almost certainly the heaviest of 2009.
"I work here almost every day and it's probably the rainiest day so far in 2009," said Tom Dougherty, a forecaster with the service in Ruskin. "And if it's not, it's certainly in the top two or three."
Dougherty said the far western and eastern corners of Hernando received the most rain Tuesday morning, with up to 4 inches falling in places like Hernando Beach and rural, tree-laden areas near Sumter County. In areas throughout Brooksville and Spring Hill, the weather service said some spots might have gotten about 2 inches of rain.
According to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, there were several reports of lightning flashes, fallen trees and small fires throughout the county Tuesday afternoon but no injuries or serious damage related to the rain.
"We really didn't have that many incidents," said Sgt. Donna Black, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office.
The news was much the same from the Withlacoochee River Electric Co-op, which was working a few small outages across Hernando. The largest outage of the day affected about 50 homes, said David Lambert, a spokesman with Withlacoochee.
The power briefly went off during the Hernando County Commission meeting a little after 9 a.m. but was restored within a half hour.
In Hernando Beach, the downpour was met with waves of gratitude, even by those who had to brave the windy, wet conditions to get to work in the morning.
"We've been needing this," said Cecile Marquis, an aesthetician with Contempo Salon Day Spa. "We're grateful to be getting this wonderful weather. And all of our clients have been coming in … no one has canceled."
At Boyett's Grove in Spring Lake, the rains came in the midst of an important time for growth out in the groves.
"It sure will help with the growth here," said Jim Oleson, co-owner of the Hernando attraction. "The rain was quite heavy this morning — at least 2.5 inches. It's great for us."
Bur Felix warned that much more rain will be needed to make up for the drought, and Florida's rainy season doesn't traditionally kick off until mid June.
"We need a lot of rainfall for our water resources to recover," Felix said. "Having a large amount of rain dumped on us at one time is not what we hope for. It's better to have more rainfall spread out for a longer period of time that can actually soak into the ground."
And for the immediate future, forecasters predict that Florida will once again go for quite a while without significant rainfall.
Dougherty expected clear skies and dry conditions for the next week or so.
Joel Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 754-6120.