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Showers drop up to 4 inches of rain on Tampa Bay area

Tampa Bay's dry season started off a little damp, with slick roads likely behind several car crashes and wind gusts blowing out power for thousands.

This weekend's scattered showers dropped 1 to 4 inches of rain on the bay area — accumulating nearly the entire average rainfall for October, meteorologists said. Rainfall in eastern Hillsborough County was slightly higher, with some areas seeing 4 inches, than that closer to the coast.

"Rainfall drops off fast," said Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure, "so it's great to get an event like this."

October tends to bring little more than 2 inches of rain, he said, in contrast to the September norm of more than 6 inches.

For the year-to-date, Tampa has seen about 50 inches of rain, which is about 9 inches above normal, according to the National Weather Service.

McClure predicts on-and-off rain will continue through Monday, between bouts of warmer sunshine and wind gusts lightening to breezes. By the end of the week, he said a cold front will succeed the steady rain, drying out humidity and cooling temperatures to highs around 80 degrees and lows around 60.

The three days of winds and rain came from a pressure gradient: A northern high-pressure system and southern low-pressure system sandwiched the bay area. That pushed through gusts of up to 40 mph Saturday, quieting to about 25 mph Sunday.

Bustling gusts contributed to power outages sweeping across Tampa Bay neighborhoods, said Progress Energy spokeswoman Pamela Oakley-Lisk. Winds caused many small outages, she said, which can take longer to fix than issues with transmission lines or substations.

Progress Energy restored power to about 16,000 Pinellas County customers over the weekend, Oakley-Lisk said. On Sunday morning, about 500 reported being without power, mostly around St. Petersburg and Palm Harbor.

"It's been a busy weekend," Oakley-Lisk said.

Tampa Electric listed a few dozen outages scattered across Hillsborough and Pasco counties on its website Sunday.

On the roads, Florida Highway Patrol responded to dozens of accidents, most of them minor. Spokesman Steve Gaskins said many may have been caused by limited visibility and slick roads.

Without recent rainfall, oil and transmission fluids build up on the roads.

"People crash on bright, sunny days," Gaskins said. "Then you add in things like limited visibility, winds, rain, wet roads and so forth. You're gonna have crashes."

Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report. Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Showers drop up to 4 inches of rain on Tampa Bay area 10/09/11 [Last modified: Sunday, October 9, 2011 8:36pm]

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