Heavy rains pummeled the Tampa Bay area Thursday, prompting a flood watch until this evening and washing out graduations for hundreds of Pinellas County students.
All of Pasco, Pinellas, Citrus, Hillsborough and Hernando counties were put under a flood watch Thursday evening thanks to a slow-moving front that was saturating an area that had already seen a significant amount of rainfall, according to Bay News 9 chief meteorologist Mike Clay.
In Pinellas, several high schools with outdoor graduations will try again today to hold their ceremonies while others scheduled for today are ready to go with backup plans that could push ceremonies into the weekend and Monday.
The delay of Tarpon Springs High's graduation disappointed Rachel Gonzalez, who said she knew the graduation would be canceled but showed up anyway.
She arrived shortly after 5 p.m. wearing a white dress, heels, and straightened hairdo with a braid on the side.
She will miss the rescheduled ceremony because "I will be on a plane to California (in the morning)," said the 18-year-old senior.
"I just spent an hour to an hour-and-a-half making myself look elegant and pretty. Now I won't get my diploma until I return in August," she said.
And Stephanie Blitz, 18, a student in the early admissions program at the University of Florida, said she came back from Gainesville specifically to attend her high school graduation.
"I'm pretty upset and angry," she said. "This was supposed to be my big day."
More downpours are expected to pummel the Tampa Bay area today, meteorologists said, with a 70 percent chance of rain.
This week's showers were a result of stagnant air combined with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, said National Weather Service meteorologist John McMichael.
As of 9 p.m. Thursday, 2.18 inches of rain had fallen at Tampa International Airport within the previous 24 hours. Weeki Wachee reported 4.22 inches, Port Richey had 1.79 inches, Dade City had 1.45 inches, Tarpon Springs reported 1.82 inches and 0.78 inches fell at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
More rain was moving in late Thursday night.
Rain chances will begin to decrease over the weekend to 40 to 50 percent, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure.
"You will see more sunshine," he said.
Times staff writer Dan Sullivan and Times correspondent Terry Reeves contributed to this report.