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Rain welcome in Tampa Bay area, but much more needed

A duck drinks from a puddle at Crescent Lake Park created by storms that came through St. Petersburg early Sunday.

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

A duck drinks from a puddle at Crescent Lake Park created by storms that came through St. Petersburg early Sunday.

ST. PETERSBURG — It had been so long since the last time it rained, mother-of-three Lisa Whitney had trouble finding her children's rain gear for an outing Sunday. So everybody got a little wet.

"It's kind of a pain," she said, trying to hold an umbrella over her kids' heads. "But hey, we need the rain, right?"

That we do. And although Sunday's downpour was the first steady rain to hit the Tampa Bay area in more than a month, forecasters say it's just a drop in the bucket compared to what the region will need to recover from a drought.

So don't turn on that lawn sprinkler just yet.

"You should still conserve water and follow the restrictions. One single rain event is not going to bring an end to the drought — not by a long shot," said Anthony Reynes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

"What we need is a lot of these. Unfortunately, that's not what we're looking at right now."

Roughly an inch of rain fell on the bay area from late Saturday night through Sunday afternoon, Reynes said. Some localized spots of heavy rain may have gotten up to 2 inches. A line of showers and a few thunderstorms moved eastward across the region ahead of a cool front.

"There's another system coming in on Tuesday, but it's looking much weaker than this one," Reynes said. The forecast calls for isolated showers Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sunday's rain was met with mixed reviews.

On one hand, it complicated things at the popular AirFest at MacDill Air Force Base. Storms forced the air show to cancel morning performances and to delay opening MacDill's gates for two hours.

On the other hand, the rain was met with waves of gratitude at places like Boyett's Grove in Spring Lake, where the citrus groves had been thirsting for natural precipitation in the midst of an important time for growth.

"It rained wonderfully last night. It was heaven-sent," said Kathy Oleson, co-owner of the Hernando County attraction, which grows oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, tangelos and kumquats.

"The growing season exists all year. The groves have been getting along — there's been irrigation. But it's always better to have the natural water as well."

But it's a long way to Florida's rainy season, which traditionally starts toward the end of May.

Staff writers Joel Anderson and Elisabeth Parker contributed to this report. Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

Rain welcome in Tampa Bay area, but much more needed 03/29/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 1:50pm]
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