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JUST A LITTLE TEST: WERE YOU READY?

Barry sent wind, rain, and flooding, but most important, a reminder.
Published Jun. 3, 2007|Updated Jun. 4, 2007

Call it hurricane practice.

A lumbering Tropical Storm Barry made landfall in the Tampa Bay area Saturday morning, bringing wind gusts, bursts of rain and minor flooding. It opened, with a relative whimper, what experts predict will be a busy hurricane season.

"It's a little warmup," said National Weather Service forecaster Paul Close in Ruskin.

The storm broke tree limbs, downed a few scattered power lines, caused minor car accidents and inundated flood-prone streets around the bay.

But Barry, disorganized and disheveled with top wind gusts of 40 mph, lacked the meteorological muscle to cause any serious property damage. There were no reports of injuries.

"It's pretty lame," Pinellas County spokeswoman Marcia Crawley said.

If nothing else, the storm brought beneficial rains to a parched region with many locations generally receiving 2 to 4 inches.

For hurricane-wary residents, Barry provided little more than a benign taste of what they fear the tropics may offer this summer and fall.

On Sunrise Drive in St. Petersburg, the waters of Bonita Bayou lapped up to the soggy street, where ducks serenely floated by.

"It's scary that a little ratty storm is doing all this," Peter Hills, 49, said outside his home.

At the 3 p.m. high tide, boat owners huddled anxiously at the Davis Island Yacht Club in Tampa.

"It's rockin' and rollin' " said club member Toni Howe. "But we're not flooded by any means."

For Ruth Grudzinskas, 44, who lives with her husband, Gary, and 5-month-old twins in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres, Barry brought what the neighborhood has become famous for: street flooding.

"This is pretty typical stuff," she said as cars splashed on Shore Acres Boulevard. "It's just not a big deal. Now if a Category 4 or Category 5 comes along, I'll worry about that. Then again, everybody will worry about that."

The storm's effects were felt most in low-lying areas near creeks and rivers.

In the Twin Brooks neighborhood of south St. Petersburg near Gulfport, Miguel Santiago sat on his front porch nearly two hours after Barry's landfall.

"It's already over?" asked the 63-year-old, as sunny skies peeked through gray, fluffy clouds. "That wasn't bad."

A creek that runs next to the Twin Brooks Golf Course brimmed with brown water, which had overflowed its banks earlier, swelled by about 2 feet over 27th Avenue S. The water inched through his yard, stopping just a few feet from Santiago's concrete block home.

In a nonchalant reaction typical of the day, Santiago said, "I've seen worse."

At Hernando County's 2007 Hurricane Expo, hosted by emergency management officials, mild-mannered Barry caused little concern among residents learning how to pack hurricane kits.

"It was just rain," said Spring Hill resident Rich Keener, 55, who attended with wife, Alice. "That's what they sell umbrellas for."

The couple recently moved to Florida from New York and didn't quite understand what all the fuss was about.

Hurricane veterans hope they never find out.

Times staff writers John Frank, Jose Cardenas and Andrew Meacham contributed to this report.

FAST FACTS

Maybe some rain

Today's forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a 20 percent chance of an afternoon shower. Temperatures will be in the mid to high 80s with westerly wind of 10 to 15 mph. The remnants of Barry will be completely gone. But, here's what Barry left behind in rainfall:

St. Petersburg: 3.64.

Clearwater: 3.79.

Tampa: 3.17.

Holiday: 4.16.

Brooksville: 2.23.

Safety Harbor: 4.09.

Inverness: 3.5.

Rain helps with wildfires

Mike Newell of the state Division of Forestry said the rain will dampen, but not eliminate, the 160 fires burning 130,361 acres in Florida. The division was still collecting information on how many fires were burning Saturday. "It is a blessing, but more would be great," he said. Rain helps increase humidity, which makes fires less likely to start, he said. It also will clear the air of smoke. Okeechobee County, where a fire in the dried lake bottom sent smoke over Tampa Bay, got 3 to 5 inches of rain, he said. Meanwhile, firefighters battling stubborn fires in north Florida said the rains will allow crews to refocus on the most persistent fires.

Still 3 inches below average

By this time in a typical year, the Tampa Bay area would have received 12.72 inches of rain. That's 3.16 inches more than has fallen. Tropical Storm Barry helped, but it would take about 1 1/2 Barrys to catch up. "We could do that in an hour, hour-and-a-half tops," said Ernie Jillson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Ruskin. "Just a thunderstorm, really."

Rainfall totals hit 4 inches

Safety Harbor and Holiday had more than 4 inches Saturday. Expect a 20 percent chance of rain today. 5B