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The heat is on _ and on and on

Published Oct. 9, 2005

A couple of weeks ago, the doors at Surf Side 6 in Treasure Island stayed open during the day to let in the fresh Gulf breezes.

Now, as temperatures rise into the 90s, the doors at the surf shop are shut tight against the heat.

"It's been very hot," said sales representative Donna Lederer. "Even the locals can tell the difference."

Actually, all this heat is nothing unusual. But it is the first hot spell of the season, and coming after a cool spring, it's attention-catching.

Prepare for more of the same. The heat will be with us until, say October.

"It's not really anything unusual," said Ron Humble, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. "People just forget."

They don't remember how hot it gets and how long it stays that way, he said.

On Sunday, the thermometer at Tampa International Airport hit 92 degrees, only three degrees above the normal high of 89 degrees for this time of year, Humble said.

But the hot weather does mean more people are turning on their air conditioners and hosing down their lawns and plants.

Late last week, water regulators issued an advisory asking Tampa Bay residents to delay unnecessary watering to help avoid a shortage. Water supplies in Pinellas County and parts of Hillsborough County were dropping late Friday, and officials were concerned that a few more days of hot, dry weather could cause a water crisis.

By Sunday, the situation had improved. Water demand dropped over the weekend and scattered showers throughout the Tampa Bay area helped replenish water supplies somewhat, said John Walkinshaw, a spokesman for the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Officials hope that afternoon rains will keep water supplies at seasonal levels. And weather forecasters say the clouds are likely to cooperate.

During the past few days, weather patterns gradually have shifted into a more typical summertime pattern of sunny days with showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. That pattern is expected to solidify during the coming week, Humble said.

"We will begin to see more significant rainfall," he said. Rain chances will hover around 40 or 50 percent during the coming week as thunderstorms strike in their normal scattered pattern.

Scattered means just that, Humble said. "We know we're going to have showers and thunderstorms. We just can't tell you if you're going to get one."

Temperatures will remain hot, in the low 90s during the day, dropping down to around 70 at night.

And businesses such as the Beach Ice Cream Shoppe in Clearwater Beach will be busy as residents and tourists seek ways to stay cool.

The busiest time of day, according to manager Mark Hanna, is when the sun starts moving toward the horizon.

"They're too scared to come out in the morning," he said, "because they'll probably get red like a lobster."