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Tropical Depression Beryl dumps record rain in parts of Hernando County

We needed the rain badly. And boy, did we ever get it.

Rain bands spinning off Tropical Depression Beryl doused parts of Hernando County with more than 6 inches Tuesday, setting a historical record at the airport and dumping by far the heaviest rainfall of the year in the county.

The system triggered flood watches and caused localized flooding, downing tree limbs, disrupting power and creating headaches for morning commuters and delaying school buses on their morning routes. There were no significant reports of damage, injury or major flooding.

"So far, aside from the media calling, our phones have been really quiet," said Cecilia Patella, director of emergency management for the county.

With more rain still coming Tuesday afternoon, the Hernando County Airport had already seen a record high amount of rainfall for May 29. By 4:30 p.m., the airport recorded 3.65 inches, surpassing the previous Brooksville record of 2.78 inches, set in 1922. Rainfall records date to 1892, according to the National Weather Service office in Ruskin.

The year's previous high rainfall total, recorded at the airport, came on April 21 when 1.61 inches fell.

"Anytime you have any tropical system, you're always going to get buckets of rain," said National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Barron. "And today was no exception."

The broad bands of rain meant high totals across the county. Many parts of the county reported between 3 and 6 inches, Barron said.

Brooksville saw more than 6.3 inches of rain in the 24-hour period ending at 1 p.m., according to Bay News 9. Weeki Wachee had seen about 4.52 inches.

"Countywide, I would say matter-of-factly that this is the heaviest rain of the year," said Bay News 9 meteorologist Josh Linker.

Thousands of Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative and Progress Energy customers temporarily lost power throughout the day Tuesday. About 3,000 Withlacoochee customers were affected after a lightning strike and when a tree fell on a power line. Progress Energy reported hundreds lost power due to the storms.

Several Hernando school buses ran as much as half an hour late in the morning because of downed tree limbs, flooded roads and malfunctioning traffic lights, said school district transportation director Doug Compton. One bus lost a red flashing light after striking a low limb.

The county was under a flood watch for much of the day.

Citrus County and parts of Pasco County also had heavy rainfall.

Sugarmill Woods in Citrus recorded roughly 10 inches, while Lecanto and Citrus Springs saw more than 6 inches.

St. Leo in Pasco had about 5.6 inches.

Although the significant rain is gone, forecasters say there's a chance of showers for the rest of the week.

Today should see about a 50 percent chance of rain, afternoon thunderstorms and temperatures hovering around the low 90s. The rest of the work week is expected to have rain chances of 40 percent and temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s.

Tuesday's rain and accompanying storms are associated with Beryl, which was moving slowly toward the northeast Tuesday afternoon.

Hurricane experts said the center of the storm could reach the coast of South Carolina early this morning and move back over the Atlantic Ocean later in the day. Beryl could regain tropical storm status Wednesday as it moves along the coastline, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432.

Tropical Depression Beryl dumps record rain in parts of Hernando County 05/29/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 9:45pm]
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