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Sunny skies, dry air return to Tampa Bay as weakened Debby moves into the Atlantic

Debby has moved out.

After bringing several days of overwhelming rain, strong wind and vicious surf to the Tampa Bay area, the storm has grown weaker on its way across the state and into the Atlantic Ocean.

The National Hurricane Center downgraded Debby to a tropical depression Tuesday night, meaning sustained winds are less than 39 mph.

Though residual rainfall and persisting floods could remain a problem in parts of the area in days to come, the Tampa Bay region will have a chance to dry out for the first time in days.

"Looks like things are finally going to be improving around here," National Weather Service forecaster Charlie Paxton said. "Tomorrow's going to be dry, Friday's going to be dry, we'll be getting lots of sunshine."

Rain chances will drop over the next several days, with a less than 20 percent chance of rain expected over the weekend, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez.

Some scattered showers are expected Wednesday, but most of the heavier rainfall will land south of the Tampa Bay area, she said.

The return of sunshine will also bring high temperatures more typical of June, forecasters said.

"This weekend's going to be a lot different than last weekend," Marquez said, noting the mercury was expected to rise into the mid 90s.

This is a stark change from the last several days, as Debby doused the area with buckets of rain.

Brooksville, which was still struggling with floods early Wednesday, saw nearly 15½ inches of rain — the most in the region. Northern Pinellas County got more than 14 inches, while St. Petersburg and Tampa saw nearly 11 inches each, according to the National Weather Center.

Debby made landfall Tuesday evening just north of Cedar Key as a tropical storm. But the already-disorganized storm weakened even more as it made its way across the Florida peninsula, experts said.

About 7 a.m. Wednesday, Debby had moved offshore near Daytona Beach. Forecasters said the system could restrengthen into a tropical storm but that it will not be a threat to land.

The National Hurricane Center was keeping an eye on a storm system 1,500 miles away in the Atlantic on Wednesday afternoon that was causing scattered showers and thunderstorms, estimating a 10 percent chance it would form into a named storm within 48 hours.

Sunny skies, dry air return to Tampa Bay as weakened Debby moves into the Atlantic 06/27/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 2:02pm]
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