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Heavy rain pours in Tampa Bay inland areas

Beachgoers got a welcome surprise Sunday: sunshine.

Inland residents? Not so much.

Areas in eastern Citrus, Pasco and Hernando got hammered, with as much as 3 inches of rain falling in some areas in a matter of hours.

And today's forecast looks much the same, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure.

"I'm forecasting a 50 percent chance of rain, and most of that will be coverage for all inland areas," he said.

Sea breezes pushing precipitation to the east and a month-early start to the summer rainy season means it could be a soggy Memorial Day.

But the rain is putting a dent in the three-year drought, McClure said.

"To make up for the long-term drought, we probably need about 15 to 20 inches and we've made up almost 7 to 10 inches of that (this month)," McClure said.

After no recorded rainfall Saturday at Tampa International Airport, the city missed the record for the most consecutive days of rain. That record —17 days — was set in 1905. This month, Tampa got 11 days of rain.

But the weekend reprieve along the coast gave a boost to beach hotels.

Glen Knutsen, at the front desk at the Sirata Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach, said it had to bring a wedding indoors Friday evening. But sunny skies Saturday and Sunday brought out beachgoers in droves. "We've got some happy campers here today," he said.

Business at Clearwater Beach Wave Runner Rentals was hopping Sunday, owner Jason Johantgen said. "It was the best single day all this year," Johantgen said. "It rained all week, then it stopped, so people were coming out of the house in full force."

By Sunday evening, the bay area had seen 7.3 inches of rain since May 12 — more than twice the average for May.

Extreme weather Sunday on Dale Mabry Highway felled trees and power lines. The highway was shut down in both directions between Lutz-Lake Fern Road and Van Dyke. Heavy storms with high winds were also reported in Polk County.

Areas of greater Daytona Beach reported waist-deep flooding after a week of daily rain. Sunday, officials fanned out across Volusia County to assess damage. An initial survey estimated 1,000 homes and businesses with flood damages of about $55.1 million.

Authorities in Bradenton said two people were hurt when a tree they were standing next to was struck by lightning about 7:30 p.m. Neither was identified.

Information from the Associated Press and Bay News 9 was used in this report. Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

7.3 inches

Rain total for May 2009, through Sunday

0.73 inches

Rain total for same time period last year

2.85 inches

Average rain total for entire month of May

Heavy rain pours in Tampa Bay inland areas 05/24/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 5:35pm]

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