Intense rains wreak havoc on Tampa Bay area

We expected rain, but not like this.

All over the Tampa Bay area Wednesday, the wet weather's effects ranged from dreary to disastrous. A tornado warning in Bloomingdale. Flooded streets in South Tampa during the morning rush hour. A lightning strike sending a man in Largo to a hospital. Ten blocks near Port Richey evacuated as water crept into homes.

"We knew a system was coming," Pasco County emergency management's Jim Martin said. "But we didn't know we'd get that much rain in just a couple hours. I guess it depends on where that little cloud opens up and dumps on you."

It dumped rain almost everywhere and throughout the day, as traffic lights went out in Pinellas, several flights were delayed at Tampa International Airport and roads closed throughout Pasco.

By Wednesday afternoon, some areas had received as much as 4 inches of rain, adding to 1- to 4-inch rainfalls the night before. Tampa set a record for the day with 4.72 inches, smashing the previous record of 2.84 inches in 1955.

And it's expected to continue.

Forecasters said today brings a 60 to 70 percent chance of showers. The rain should taper off Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

While some weather-related accidents, power outages and flooding damage occurred Wednesday, no serious injuries were reported.

A 77-year-old maintenance man at the Largo Southwest Recreation Center felt an indirect effect of lightning when it hit the roof of a metal shed where he was working.

Southeast of Tampa in Progress Village, 15 families were evacuated from homes on 82nd Street in Progress Village because of flooding from high tides and heavy rains. Hillsborough Fire Rescue officials said a shelter was set up at a local church as emergency personnel used boats to get people to safety. And the evacuees stayed with other family members Wednesday night.

Flooding closed the northbound George Bean Parkway, the inbound roadway to Tampa International Airport from Memorial Highway, for 90 minutes, forcing drivers to detour. The roadway is under construction, Department of Transportation spokesman John McShaffrey said, and shouldn't be so flood-prone when it's completed in late fall.

"We don't expect that to be a recurring problem every time it rains," he said. "That was an extraordinary amount of rain. The whole ditch system was full of water."

The showers arrived in what meteorologists call a train — several storms located along the same track. Some of the worst rain subsided by noon, though scattered showers remained all day and a flood watch was in effect into the night.

Times staff writer Kim Wilmath contributed to this report. Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

Intense rains wreak havoc on Tampa Bay area 07/01/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 4, 2009 1:37pm]

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