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Storm hits Florida with high wind, rain

It was a far cry from last March's "Storm of the Century," but Wednesday's high winds, tides and heavy rain did qualify as the storm of the week.

In parts of North Florida, more than 8 inches of rain fell overnight. Residents of low-lying parts of Tallahassee had to be evacuated by boat as a strong line of thunderstorms began crossing the state in the early morning.

Most of the rain was supposed to blow through Florida by early this morning. Cooler temperatures and fair skies are forecast for today with highs in the low to mid 60s and lows in the upper 40s.

In the Tampa Bay area, winds gusting to 40 mph caused a few isolated power outages and knocked down some telephone wires early Wednesday. Emergency officials said the storm did little damage.

"Very similar to a typical storm," said Pinellas Emergency Management Director David Bilodeau.

Tampa police spokesman Steve Cole said high winds bent a utility pole at the interchange of Interstate 275 and Interstate 4. Authorities closed I-275 to southbound traffic near the interchange from 8:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. while the pole was repaired.

About 3,500 customers, most in south Pinellas County, briefly lost power early Wednesday when some supply lines blew down, Florida Power spokesman Will Rodgers said. Most service was restored by noon.

"We didn't sustain any long-term damage," he said.

The same was true at GTE and at Tampa Electric. Both had a few minor problems that were quickly fixed.

TECO spokesman Mike Mahoney said the storm knocked out power for about 2,300 customers in the Temple Terrace and Robles Park areas of Hillsborough County, and another 1,300 in neighboring Polk County.

The outages, which began about 2 a.m., lasted about an hour, he said. "It was not a very significant storm as storms go," Mahoney said. "From our standpoint, it was real light."

The storm system caused more damage to the north and south of Tampa Bay. Besides the flooding in Tallahassee, a tornado hit a mobile home park in Ocala but caused no injuries.

In Charlotte County, south of Sarasota, high winds, possibly even small tornadoes, twisted metal roofs and pool enclosures.

_ Staff writer Paul de la Garza and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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