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Andrea provided needed rainfall — and practice for Hernando's emergency personnel

The steady downpours, moderate wind gusts and swelling waves along Hernando County's coastline during Tropical Storm Andrea mostly served as a mild reminder that Florida's hurricane season has begun.

In effect, the county got through Thursday's inclement weather virtually unscathed, save for some minor beach erosion at Pine Island, a few downed trees and minor flooding in low-lying coastal areas, and certainly nothing that approached the scale of last year's weather calamity, Tropical Storm Debby, which dumped 18 inches of rain and created numerous sinkholes around the county.

"We came through it pretty well," said Hernando emergency management director Cecilia Patella. "Any damage we saw was minimal at best. We should be thankful for that."

The storm provided at least one significant benefit in that it enabled the county's emergency management team to fine tune its procedures in advance of what hurricane forecasters are expecting to be a busy season.

"It was a good opportunity to bring our (Emergency Operations Center) up and have our people ready to go and on alert," Patella said.

According to the National Weather Service, a little more than 3 inches of rain fell between midnight Wednesday and 9 p.m. Thursday at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport. Wind gusts were clocked at 36 mph at the airport and along the Hernando coast.

The county closed Alfred A. McKethan Park on Pine Island due to safety concerns. At Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, officials canceled the famous mermaid shows and boat tours and closed the water slides. Pasco-Hernando Community College closed its campuses and canceled Friday classes.

Residents and workers along the coast seemed to take the storm in stride. On Cabana Street on Pine Island, Randy Nagy, 37, was finishing the vinyl ceilings of a home under construction. It was almost noon, the time of high tide. The construction worker from Spring Hill finished his workday early as the wind began to pick up.

"The rain isn't a bother when you're under a roof," Nagy said Thursday. "But the wind — I don't want the ladder to blow over."

Some were grateful for Andrea's heavy rains, including hydrologic data manager Granville Kinsman of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, who said the rainfall helped ease a nearly 14-inch rainfall deficit the region has experienced during the past six months.

"It's an early good sign that we might just be able to make up the deficit by the end of the summer," Kinsman said.

Staff writers Alison Barnwell and Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

Andrea provided needed rainfall — and practice for Hernando's emergency personnel 06/07/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 7, 2013 9:00pm]
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