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Storms pelt Tampa Bay area

A strong line of storms descended over the Tampa Bay area late Wednesday, bringing high winds, lightning and a tornado watch.

Several severe weather warnings were issued for much of the region, although no major damage or injuries were reported as of late evening.

Still, many schools canceled afternoon activities, and construction companies postponed work on several roads in preparation for the weather.

The storms moved swiftly across the area, and were expected to peter out this morning.

The brunt of the storms appeared to hit mid Pinellas County, but Pasco had the strongest reported winds. At one point, winds reached 60 mph in Hudson, according to Bay News 9.

"It's pretty much exactly what we expected," said Josh Linker, a Bay News 9 meteorologist.

In St. Petersburg, strong winds and old age apparently toppled a 35-foot tree about 5 p.m. Wednesday, authorities said, sending it crashing onto two pickup trucks off 22nd Avenue S.

Dwight Williams was hanging out outside the Lakeview Market at 1940 22nd Ave. S when he and his friends heard a loud crack.

They looked up to see the tree, estimated to be at least 50 years old, splitting.

The group of about 10 to 15 people scattered. Williams tried to get to his truck to move it out of the tree's path.

"When I looked up, it was coming down," the 50-year-old said. "By the time I got to my truck, it was coming down, so I jumped inside."

The tree smashed across the hoods of the vehicles and brushed Williams' left arm, but he was not injured.

"I'm lucky," Williams said as friends helped cut away branches a few hours later. "I thank God. It really didn't catch me the way it could have."

No other major damage was reported late Wednesday. A tornado watch issued for five counties, including Hernando and Pasco, was to expire at 4 a.m. today, but the threat to Tampa Bay had diminished significantly by 10 p.m. Wednesday, weather officials said.

Wednesday night's storms were just the first in a series of systems expected to affect the area over the next few days, Linker said.

Although today is expected to be clear and in the mid 70s, another area of low pressure is expected to form Friday and Saturday, he said.

Temperatures will drop to the mid 60s and widespread rain is expected.

"It's going to be very heavy rain on Friday," Linker said.

Storms pelt Tampa Bay area 12/02/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 11:26pm]
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