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Heavy rains flood roads, force evacuations in Tampa Bay area

Afternoon summer rains have become routine in the Tampa Bay area, but Thursday's wave of storms was particularly nasty, stranding drivers in Brooksville, opening a sinkhole near Dade City and sparking a fire at a Brandon school.

In Hernando County, some of the heaviest rainfall of the summer flooded roads in Brooskville, pushing water as high as 3 feet. Parts of the city got more than 5 inches of rain, according to Bay News 9.

Brandy Langley of Brooksville and her friend Janie Robinson were trying to get to the Walmart Supercenter when police diverted Langley's car into a Publix supermarket lot. She tried to get out but wasn't successful.

"(Robinson) said stop the car. I said, 'Hell no, we're going to get out of here,' and I drove the car with the water coming up over the hood," Langley said.

A few miles away, Sparkman Lake flooded into a campground, forcing its evacuation, Bay News 9 reported. At least 25 people had to leave the park for the night.

In Pasco County, part of northbound Interstate 75 flooded near State Road 54 in a construction zone, according to the Pasco Sheriff's Office.

Thursday evening, a hole about 30 feet wide and 30 feet deep opened west of Dade City in a rural area east of Interstate 75.

The hole caused part of Jessamine Road to cave in, forcing its closure, authorities said. There were no reports of injuries or damage to nearby structures.

In Hillsborough County, authorities blamed lightning for an afternoon fire at an elementary school that left minimal damage and no one injured.

Around 4:30 p.m., Hillsborough County Fire Rescue crews responded to Mintz Elementary School, 1510 Heather Lakes Blvd., Brandon, for the report of a fire.

What they found was, for a moment, a bit of a mystery: Smoke drifted down from a classroom ceiling and up from school's roof, but no flames were visible. Crews cut a small hole in the roof, revealing a small fire they quickly extinguished.

There were no students in the building at the time. Several classrooms sustained water damage, according to Hillsborough County Public Schools spokesman Stephen Hegarty, but classes will not be delayed today.

Rain-weary Tampa Bay residents will not get a respite, according to Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure.

"A lot of the same," he said of today's forecast. "Showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon, and lots of lightning."

Times staff writers Shelley Rossetter and Mike Konrad contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or whobson@tampabay.com.

Heavy rains flood roads, force evacuations in Tampa Bay area 08/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 23, 2013 12:30am]
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