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Hurricane Gustav overjoys and annoys in bay area

Glancing blows from the far outer bands of Hurricane Gustav broke up Duane Franklin's truck in Clearwater on Sunday and stole power from Pinellas County households, but as it threatens the Texas and Louisiana coasts today, the storm should continue to delight surfers here.

Sunday's high winds, which gusted up to 35 mph, should slacken to half that by noon today, said Mike Cantin, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

But Gustav's residual swell will continue along the Pinellas coast today, with waves of 4 to 6 feet.

"Another good surf day for the holiday," Cantin said. "Not a good beach day."

Strong rip currents are likely, so Cantin advised against swimming and urged surfers to exercise caution.

Rob Diersing, 32, of St. Petersburg said he planned to be back on the beach at 6 a.m.

"It was pretty crazy today. We had very long lines offshore," Diersing said Sunday while toting a 6-foot yellow Ballistics board along Sunset Beach in Treasure Island.

Angel Famiglietti of Tampa agreed.

"I've seen better conditions, but this is definitely one of the best," said Famiglietti, 30.

Along the coastline, more than a hundred surfers bobbed up and down on their boards, ready to catch the next good wave.

Lenny Stamos, 61, owner of Lenny's Surf Shop on St. Pete Beach, said there was a "carnival atmosphere" Sunday at Upham and Sunset beaches — two favorite spots for local wave riders.

"By noon, anything that floated was in the water," Stamos said.

Surf Shop employee Tim Harmon, 30, said he fielded calls all day from surfers on the east coast who were headed across the state to capitalize on the waves being churned up in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It's been absolutely insane. All of our rental boards are out," he said.

On Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard on Sunday afternoon, a stiff breeze ruffled both the waves and the palm trees. The wind and the overcast sky kept the usual crowds away, but a few people braved the weather.

Partners Will Freshwater and Steve Cremen moved here a few months ago from Washington, D.C., so they brought their golden retriever, Rory, to check out the waves.

"This is all new to us," Freshwater said. "Every time there's erratic weather, we go check it out. The bay looks like the ocean."

Sunday's high winds did more than help push waves ashore. As of 4 p.m., Progress Energy had documented outages to 1,000 clients attributable to Gustav. That sounds like a lot, but Progress Energy spokeswoman Sarah Varga said a bad lightning storm can cause more trouble.

"We're very lucky," Varga said. "There has just been a smattering of short outages."

Though it was more than 200 miles away, Gustav reached out and ruined the afternoon for Duane Franklin, who works anchoring mobile homes to secure them during hurricanes.

Franklin, 57, was going into the kitchen of his place at Hidden Oaks Apartments on Druid Road E in Clearwater just before 3 p.m. when he heard a crunch, then a crash.

The wind had whipped down an oak tree limb, which fell on his girlfriend's silver Kia Sportage and his white 2000 Ford F-150 pickup truck.

Franklin estimated the limb was thick as a man and about 12 to 14 feet long. He tried to pry the limb off, but couldn't do the job alone.

To add insult, a hive of bees that called the limb home stung Franklin twice. The sides of his truck were smeared with honey.

Hurricane Gustav overjoys and annoys in bay area 08/31/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 3, 2008 4:50pm]
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