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Tampa Bay area hit with wind, rain but avoids tornadoes

High winds and dry grass likely contributed to the fast spreading of a grass fire in Clearwater’s Clubhouse Estates; however, firefighters were able to contain it before structures were damaged.

LUIS SANTANA | Times

High winds and dry grass likely contributed to the fast spreading of a grass fire in Clearwater’s Clubhouse Estates; however, firefighters were able to contain it before structures were damaged.

The threat of tornadoes and heavy thunderstorms with hail swept through the Tampa Bay area Sunday afternoon through evening, forcing residents indoors to wait out a potential worst-case scenario.

Strong winds and heavy rains caused some minor damage, but as of mid-evening no tornadoes touched down, and the region was spared the type of devastation the weather system brought to other parts of the Southeast on Saturday and Sunday.

"As far as Tampa Bay, it could have been worse," Kate Wentzel, 10Weather WTSP meteorologist, said Sunday evening.

Today, conditions will remain windy and rainy in the morning, forecasters said.

The front will drop the high today into the upper 60s to low 70s, 10Weather WTSP meteorologist Ashley Batey said, adding that "this isn't going to be a big arctic blast where we drop into the 30s or 40s."

The Sunshine Skyway bridge, shut down for much of Sunday evening due to winds averaging 43 to 52 mph, was reopened at about 9:15 p.m.

 

RELATED: At least 18 dead as tornadoes slam Southeast.

 

Tornado warnings were in effect at some point Sunday for Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee and Polk counties.

The strong winds did cause some problems.

Pasco County authorities reported damage to a handful of roofs Sunday evening in Zephyrhills.

Officials received reports of power outages, downed trees and limbs, and minor street flooding in Pasco, and pea-sized hail was reported in the Bushnell area of Sumter County.

Clearwater firefighters battled a 2-acre brush fire behind homes in the Countryside area off Northside Drive. The fire, spread by the powerful gusts of wind and dry grass, charred some fences but damaged no homes.

And Polk County authorities reported that the roofs of two mobile homes in Lakeland were damaged.

As of 10 p.m. Sunday, Tampa Electric had more than 4,500 customers without power, down from around 6,300 at 8:30 p.m. Duke Energy had nearly 50 outages in Pinellas County at 10 p.m.

Some outdoor Sunday events in the area were called off due to the forecast, including the Clearwater Distance Classic race series and Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival Music Fest in downtown Tampa.

The storm threat was part of a larger system that pushed through the South on Saturday night and Sunday, killing at least 18 people and injuring dozens more.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Tampa Bay area hit with wind, rain but avoids tornadoes 01/23/17 [Last modified: Monday, January 23, 2017 12:45am]
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