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It's gray, it's rainy, it's our winter

It's a sure sign of winter.

The cold front dipping into Florida this week has caused temperatures to drop slightly, raising hopes of cool days ahead.

But the front also brought dark clouds and lots of rain, up to three inches in parts of Pinellas County alone.

"Right now, all you can do is really look forward to a decent weekend," said Andy Nash, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Ruskin. "It's probably going to look a lot more threatening outside than it really is."

On Wednesday, the rain and cold front produced a glimpse of the weather pattern expected over the next few months: warm, then rainy, followed by a cooling period, then warm again.

"We're getting close to that time of the year," Nash said. "We start having cold fronts moving into the state and driving in cooler, drier air."

Today's high should remain about 80 degrees, despite gray clouds. Tonight's low should dip into the low 60s.

Rain is very possible, but not as much as what fell Wednesday. Some low-lying streets flooded, and police reported dozens of minor accidents around the Tampa Bay area.

No major flooding was reported in west central Florida, which has had its rainiest season in five years.

Indeed, the prospect of cooler, drier weather comes as a welcome relief, particularly in South Florida, which has had a host of problems from unusually heavy rainfall.

So far this month, more than 50 white-tailed deer have been found dead in the Florida Everglades. Some have been in water too deep for foraging.

A skeleton of a deer was spotted Wednesday in about two feet of water, and game officials estimate about 1,500 deer are stranded in the 470,000-acre area, which stretches south into western Dade County.

To help wildlife officials and volunteers carry food to trapped deer, Gov. Lawton Chiles was at the head of an airboat flotilla into the Everglades on Wednesday.

District water managers expect that without any more rain, water levels should be back to normal in a couple of weeks.