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Strong storms trigger flooding, power outages

Tampa Bay residents endured road flooding and power outages Sunday evening as powerful storms marched through the area.

The storms pelted the bay area with several inches of rain, prompting the National Weather Service in Ruskin to issue a flood advisory for south Pinellas County. There also were reports of golf ball-sized hail in Hillsborough County.

More than 3 inches of rain fell at Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, while about 2 inches fell in Tampa, said Colleen Rhea, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

The storms first bashed Tampa, then moved over the bay and into Pinellas. Storms also dumped heavy rain in Pasco and Hernando counties.

Florida Highway Patrol officials said the Howard-Armenia exit on Interstate 275 was blocked by 3 feet of water for an hour.

Intersections in downtown St. Petersburg also flooded. A St. Petersburg police cruiser got stuck in deep water at Fourth Avenue S and First Street, dispatchers said.

There were more than a dozen reports of downed power cables in the downtown area, Pinellas 911 dispatchers said. A downed tree blocked Fourth Street N near Sixth Avenue.

About 3,800 customers were without power in Pinellas County on Sunday evening, according to Progress Energy. Across the bay, about 10,000 Tampa Electric customers lost power during the storms, most of them from western Hillsborough into South Tampa, utility spokesman Rick Morera said.

Morera said that around 10 p.m., about 4,500 people remained without power.

Also in Tampa, a lightning strike sparked a kitchen fire in an apartment in the 3300 block of W DeLeon Street. Firefighters found a smoldering fire behind a stove in the apartment after lightning struck a gas line, fire officials said.

The tenants, who were home at the time of the lightning strike, were not injured.

Lightning was also the culprit in another apartment fire in the 6300 block of S MacDill Avenue, Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Capt. Bill Wade said. It took more than 30 firefighters to douse the blaze while lightning crackled around them.

The fire caused heavy damage in two apartments, while water used to put out the fire damaged two other units. Damage was estimated at $150,000, though no injuries were reported.

Rhea said more bad weather is expected throughout the week.

Times staff writer Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

Strong storms trigger flooding, power outages 07/06/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 7, 2008 6:35am]
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