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Tampa Bay forecast: Showers early, then mild temperatures

Parts of Tampa Bay saw a record amount of rain Tuesday as a widespread storm ripped through the region.

Much of the area saw between 1 and 2 inches as the powerful storm knocked out power for thousands, toppled trees and hampered travel for commuters trying to get home from work.

The showers were expected to continue early Wednesday until a cold front pushes the rain out of the area and keeps temperatures in the 60s.

Wednesday was to be cool and windy with highs peaking in the mid to upper 60s across the region, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez.

Rain should be out of the forecast through early next week, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Logan Johnson.

"By and large, it looks like a dry forecast," he said.

Tuesday saw a record amount of rain at Tampa International Airport. The airport saw 1.4 inches, besting the previous record for the date of 1.09 set in 1988. Bradenton also set a record with 2 inches of rain.

St. Petersburg's Albert Whitted Airport recorded among the most rain in the region with 1.67 inches.

Spread from Sumter to Pinellas counties, the storm system had picked up speed by early evening, pushing east across the state at nearly 50 mph and forming a waterspout west of Apollo Beach.

The strongest wind gusts, about 70 to 75 mph, were recorded 2 miles north of downtown St. Petersburg. A few miles away at an Exxon gas station, a canopy buckled and trapped a woman in her car. She was not seriously hurt.

Many Hernando County homeowners woke up Wednesday to find low-hanging power lines, trees down in their yards and damage to their properties.

Hernando County officials sent out assessment teams to survey the wreckage. Overnight, they had estimated that 14 to 24 houses had sustained damage. No injuries had been reported, according to officials Tuesday night.

Homes on Ferry Avenue off of Broad Street were hammered with high winds Tuesday evening, bringing down heavy trees onto power lines, carports and houses.

A nearly 100-foot pine tree crushed 79-year-old Bill Cordle's shed. He was standing outside with his wife, Ruby, when the storm first hit.

"I spent 16 months in the Korean War," Cordle said as he described the storm's onset. "One of my neighbors asked me, 'How did that feel?' I said it was about like dodging bullets over there in Korea."

A National Weather Service meteorologist surveying the site said the Ferry Avenue neighborhood likely sustained winds of 70 to 80 mph, but he did not think a tornado hit the area.

"It looks like there were just severe thunderstorm winds because there was not a clear path of destruction," said Anthony Reynes, standing across the road from Cordle's property. "It certainly doesn't look tornadic."

Reynes, though, said the storm caused some of the worst damage he had seen in the area counties since a 2005 tornado hit the Pasco County.

"It tore everything up," Cordle said. "I'm lucky it didn't get these cars and every dang thing."

Meteorologists confirmed that a police officer saw a tornado touching down briefly in Manatee County just after 6 p.m., but officials had not confirmed any touchdowns in other bay area counties.

Progress Energy reported scores of downed trees and power lines that caused outages affecting 12,600 customers in Pinellas County and about 400 in Pasco. In Hernando, Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative reported about 350 customers without power.

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Tampa Bay forecast: Showers early, then mild temperatures 01/26/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 3:05pm]
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