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Tampa Bay area residents delighted by prospect of cooler weather

Everyone's talking about it. The whole town's abuzz with anticipation.

It's actually going to be nice this weekend.

As if the weather gods finally decided to cut us a break from this record October heat, the Tampa Bay area's going to feel a dramatic 15-degree drop as tonight turns into Saturday. For most of the weekend, expect sunny skies, highs in the mid 70s and lots and lots of people flooding our beaches, parks and gardens.

"Everyone's looking forward to just not sweating so much," said Dave Conrad, a Brooksville parks employee who plays in the Pasco-Hernando adult baseball league. "It'll be interesting to see what kind of effect it has in our parks."

Thanks to a cold front moving through the Southeast and creating frigid and rainy weather elsewhere, Florida will get some rainfall followed by nearly perfect temperatures. National Weather Service forecasters call for a 60 to 70 percent chance of rain with a strong likelihood of severe thunderstorms the Tampa Bay area today.

By Saturday, people can expect to wake up to much cooler air, with lows dropping to the 60s in some areas and a slight chance of showers along coastal areas.

But for the most part, Bay News 9 meteorologist Mike Clay said, it'll be a sunny weekend, with highs in the mid 70s and lows in the 60s and even dropping to the 50s and 40s in parts of Hernando County through Monday.

It's a fun forecast to deliver after weeks of talking about the heat, Clay said.

The first half of October was the third hottest in recorded history, with an average high of 81.8. On Thursday in St. Petersburg, the morning low was 79 degrees at Albert Whitted Airport, breaking the record of 77 degrees set in 1986.

"We have to be careful, though, because not everyone is happy when it cools off," Clay said. "I guarantee someone will complain and say, 'Hey, I moved to Florida because I like 90-degree weather.' "

Not Jessica Jeffcoats. The 31-year-old student from Orlando is getting married at sunset Saturday on Treasure Island and she's ecstatic about the forecast.

Most of her family members are going to her wedding from West Virginia, where she's been told it's cold and rainy. She wasn't sure a humid 85 to 90 degrees was much better.

"I thought, 'Oh no, it's going to be miserable, even at sunset,' " Jeffcoats said. "But this is an answered prayer for me. I've been praying really hard."

The wonderful weather is also a great boost to several outdoor events opening this weekend, such as the four-day Clearwater Jazz Holiday in Coachman Park, the Oktoberfest Fall Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes in Dunedin and the Blazin' Butts-n-Brisket competition in Brooksville.

Shannon Edge, Tampa's neighborhood and community relations director, sent a routine e-mail out to the news media and neighborhood leaders announcing free events this weekend. The e-mail began with a giddier tone than usual.

"Can you feel fall in the air with the nice crisp weather?" Edge wrote. "OK, maybe not yet but soon! With that said, we have some awesome upcoming events that are FREE and will be very enjoyable with the cool weather right around the corner."

Brett Dowd, a 24-year-old salesman who works in Flying Fish Bikes stores in Westchase and South Tampa, said customers have been coming in since the September rain slowed down. Many want tuneups and bike repairs so they can get outside, he said, but it's been so darn hot.

This weekend, it seems that everyone who comes through the shops can talk only about this weekend's awesome weather. Cool morning dog walks. Afternoon rides in the 70s. Jacket weather in the evening.

Can it really be true? People are checking and rechecking forecasts in the newspaper, on TV, on the Web, confirming the exciting news.

"Oh, yeah," Dowd said. "I did that for my whole lunch break yesterday."

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

Tampa Bay area residents delighted by prospect of cooler weather 10/15/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 16, 2009 12:19am]

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