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Heavy rains to roll through Tampa Bay and threaten final shuttle launch

Heavy rains from a tropical wave in the Gulf of Mexico are expected to roll through the Tampa Bay area Thursday and could delay Friday's final space shuttle launch, disappointing up to a million onlookers.

NASA officials on Thursday reaffirmed that there is only a 30 percent chance that weather will allow the final space shuttle launch scheduled for 11:26 a.m. Friday.

But there is a 40 percent chance of acceptable weather for launching at 11:04 a.m. Saturday, and a 60 percent chance of good weather for a 10:38 a.m. Sunday launch, shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters said.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms should roll through Tampa Bay throughout Thursday, said Juli Marquez, a Bay News 9 meteorologist. The chance of rain and thunderstorms increases throughout the day, she said.

Friday's weather will be similar, with a 70 percent chance of rain. Some spots could see more than an inch of rain, Marquez said. Much of Central Florida will see heavy rain, she said.

Up to a million people are expected to flock to the Space Coast to watch the final launch Friday, though the weather seems likely to delay that. "It's not looking too good," said Nicole Carlisle, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

This will be the 135th and final launch in the 30-year-old space shuttle program. The shuttle Atlantis, carrying four astronauts, is scheduled to land in Florida 12 days after launch, following a mission to carry supplies to the International Space Station.

Heavy rains to roll through Tampa Bay and threaten final shuttle launch 07/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 7, 2011 1:24pm]
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