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Storms, rain threaten snag traffic and threaten weekend

The booms were hard to miss.

Thunder shook buildings, torrential rain filled streets and bridges backed up across Tampa Bay Friday morning as a line of strong storms moved northeast across the region.

"It never really let up," Bay News 9 Traffic Reporter Chuck Henson said. "There was always some big crash going on all the time."

The madness began early Friday, Henson said. A driver was killed about 2:45 a.m. when they slammed head-on into an ambulance while driving the wrong way on I-275. The accident congested southbound lanes of the interstate for hours, and other accidents backed up the Selmon Expressway and Veterans' Expressway

Saturday's rain chance was forecast at 50 percent, while Sunday's was predicted to drop slightly to 30 percent, According to the Bay News 9 Weather Center. Thanks to a southwest wind, more showers and thunderstorms were expected to arrive in the early hours of Saturday, threating a host of weekend outings.

The Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheatre will host a full lineup of artists this weekend. Country artist Brad Paisley played Friday night, and bands One Republic and Motley Crue will take the stage Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

"We will never cancel," Tonya Hyman of the amphitheatre said.

Hyman said in rare circumstances of extreme lightning, concert attendees already in the venue might be asked to huddle under the shelter in front of the stage. In others, they might be asked to wait out lightning in their cars. But rain alone won't stall a concert, Hyman said.

Event organizers of the University of South Florida Bulls Fan Fest, scheduled for Saturday afternoon, are taking a similar approach.

"The event's going to happen rain or shine," spokesman Adam Freeman said.

Rain could prompt the event to be moved inside the Sun Dome, Freeman said. Organizers would make that decision Saturday morning.

The Clearwater Threshers take on Lakeland this weekend, and Brighthouse Field staff don't expect weather to prompt much change in play.

"It would have to be a hurricane event for us to declare a rain-out," front office worker DeDe Angelillis said.

Rain delays are far more common, Angelillis said, but in the event of a game cancellation fans' tickets will be good for any future Threshers game this season.

August's total rainfall for Tampa, as of Friday morning, was just 2.14 inches — slightly below normal. But Marquez said that number did not include today's downpours, and could be slightly skewed if previous storms skirted Tampa International Airport, where the National Weather Service measures rainfall.

Totals added from this morning's downpours could push the numbers back up to or above average, she said.

And just in case we need to spell it out for you, the weekend will also be hot. Highs will reach the high 80s Friday and Saturday and lows will only dip into the high 70s overnight. But Friday and Saturday will actually be a bit cooler than normal, Marquez said, thanks to cloudy conditions. Sunday will warm into the low-to-mid 90s.

"It's going to be hotter, because we're going to have more sunshine and fewer storms," Bay News 9 Meteorologist Juli Marquez said.

Henson said Friday's weather was a headache, but could have been much worse. The storm's timing was fortuitous. When students return to school next week, we'll see much more congestion.

"I think we're really lucky that the kids are still out of school, even in spite of the rain," Henson said.

Contact Claire Wiseman at cwiseman@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman.

Storms, rain threaten snag traffic and threaten weekend 08/15/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 15, 2014 2:03pm]
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