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Rain, blessed rain for Tampa Bay! Now, make it stop!

A resounding "ahhhhhhh" swept across the Tampa Bay area a couple of weeks ago as rain fell, easing a months-long drought. The heavens took pity on our crispy brown lawns and cracked reservoirs and sent us some love.

Sweet, beautiful rain. Cascading showers. The pitter-patter against our windows, the gurgling rush in our street gutters.


Now when's it going to stop?

Memorial Day weekend plans: ruined. Barbecue grills and patio decks: soaked. Outdoor concerts in the park: miserable. Trips to beaches and dog parks: gross.

"It's like living in Maine or Seattle," said Marcus Dergins of St. Petersburg, who was hanging out at the Pier on Friday. "Hopefully the suicide rate won't go up."

Actually, even Seattle isn't getting this much rain right now, said Nolan Watson, 75, who is visiting Tampa from Seattle this weekend. He planned to visit Ybor City. Instead he longs for his hometown, where it's 72 degrees and sunny today.

It's not just that we forgot what rain was like. This really is a heck of a lot of rain. So much so that we're starting to creep up on records.

Since meteorologists began officially recording the weather in 1890, the most days in a row that rain has fallen in Tampa is 17. That happened in 1905.

If it rains today in Tampa — and you know it will — it will be the 12th day of rain in a row. Tampa will tie the record if it rains every day until Thursday.

The record in St. Petersburg is 14 days in a row of rain, which occurred in 1961 and 1983.

That means St. Petersburg could tie a record Monday.

Since May 12, when our streak of consecutive rainy days began, 7.15 inches of rain has fallen in Tampa, and St. Petersburg has gotten 5.7 inches.

Every day next week carries at least a 40 percent chance of rain or thunderstorms, Bay News 9 reports.

That's bad news for boaters, beach bums, Little League players, people with dogs or kids and … well, pretty much everyone.

Everyone, that is, except for government water regulators — we still have a ways to go to dig ourselves out of a three-year drought — and rain romantics like Amanda Roper.

"I enjoy the rain," said Roper, hanging out before her shift at Lucky Dill in downtown St. Petersburg. "We need it. I'm all for it all weekend. I'm all for it all summer."

Roper, who is from New York and carries an umbrella every day, is not alone. Some people love the rain.

Forecasters know this and proceed with caution.

"We don't try to make the rain out to be a good thing or a bad thing," said Bay News 9 chief meteorologist Mike Clay. "We try to just stick with the facts; otherwise we're bound to make someone mad."

Anyone dying for a bit of sunshine should probably head out in the morning, Clay said. Forecasts call for mostly afternoon showers through the weekend, including Memorial Day.

And perhaps forever. (Or so it seems.)

Clay knows some people are eager for that zero percent chance of rain again. After 25 years of giving weather forecasts, though, he has one message for those people.

"Droughts are followed by floods and floods are followed by droughts," he said. "Be careful what you wish for."

Times staff writers Kevin Smetana, Andy Boyle and Brant James contributed to this report. Emily Nipps can be reached at (727) 893-8452.


CLOSED BEACHES: Several local beaches will be closed over the holiday weekend because runoff from the heavy rains has led to high bacteria levels. Picnic Island in Hillsborough County and the Hudson, Gulf Harbors and Green Key beaches in Pasco County are closed to swimming because of bacteria.

TORNADO DRILL: The violent storms that swept across northern Pinellas County early Friday afternoon prompted a tornado warning, forcing school officials to order students into a "duck and cover" position. The school district acted after National Weather Service radar indicated a possible tornado moving northwest near Belleair at 12:45 p.m. There were no reports of any injuries or damage.


STATE OF EMERGENCY: Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday proclaimed a state of emergency for Brevard, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Lake, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns and Volusia counties. Preliminary estimates put flood damage at $52 million in Volusia County, the worst-hit county, where some 976 buildings have reportedly sustained some kind of damage. At least 50 residents were staying at a Red Cross shelter in Daytona Beach.

SPEEDWAY FLOODS: Parts of the Daytona International Speedway were under water Friday as rains drenched northeast Florida for a fifth straight day, but there was no significant damage to the motorway. Water collected in a tunnel and on the apron of a viewing area but it was expected to dry out in time for the Coke Zero 400 race on July 4.

TROPICAL ACTIVITY? The same weather system that has brought us so much rain also is being watched for tropical cyclone activity as it approaches the Florida Panhandle this weekend. The National Hurricane Center reported that "some slow development of this system is possible as it moves slowly northward." A Hurricane Hunter plane will investigate today. The chance of the system turning into a tropical cyclone before it hits the northwest coast is less than 30 percent, the Hurricane Center said. The far-reaching system's worst damage has been in Haiti, where Reuters reported 11 people were killed on Thursday.

Rain, blessed rain for Tampa Bay! Now, make it stop! 05/22/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 23, 2009 10:15am]
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