Flood watch in effect for bay area as rains continue

Graduates enjoy fireworks Thursday night after Clearwater High School’s commencement ceremonies at Bright House Field. The graduation went on despite sporadic drizzle. For more stories, coverage and memorable photo galleries from around the bay area, go to tampabay.com/graduation2012. If you use Instagram or Twitter, tag your graduation pics with #tbgrads2012. We’re pulling them into our Storify coverage at tampabay.com/tb-two.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Graduates enjoy fireworks Thursday night after Clearwater High School’s commencement ceremonies at Bright House Field. The graduation went on despite sporadic drizzle. For more stories, coverage and memorable photo galleries from around the bay area, go to tampabay.com/graduation2012. If you use Instagram or Twitter, tag your graduation pics with #tbgrads2012. We’re pulling them into our Storify coverage at tampabay.com/tb-two.

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.

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The backup plan

New times for outdoor graduation ceremonies postponed Thursday:

Today

Palm Harbor University High: Ceremonies will be in the gym at 9 a.m. for International Baccalaureate graduates, at noon for medical graduates and 3 p.m. for traditional graduates

Tarpon Springs High: 10 a.m. on the high school field. Alternative: 7 p.m Monday on the field.

The backup plans for schools with outdoor graduations scheduled for today:

Countryside High: The graduation set for 8 a.m. will move to the school gymnasium later in the morning, dividing the graduates into two ceremonies. Times depend on the period when the outdoor ceremony is canceled and details will be communicated at the original ceremony.

Largo High: Monday in the school cafeteria according to the following schedule:

• 8 a.m.: Students with last names beginning with A – L and National Honor Society students with last names beginning with A – L.

• 11 a.m.: Students with last names beginning with M — Z and National Honor Society students with last names beginning with M – Z.

St. Petersburg High: Saturday at 9 a.m. at Stewart Field

Flood watch in effect for bay area as rains continue 06/07/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 8, 2012 8:12am]

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