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RAIN CLOUDS SHOULD SCRAM BY WEEKEND

The ground is mostly soggy and squishy, but the drought's not over.

A sluggish storm front sloshed parts of the Tampa Bay area with 8 inches of rain over the past week, fortifying the water supply but falling short of curing the drought.

The weather system, which stretches from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean, is expected to move north today, setting up a drier weekend.

"Our area has been receiving below average rainfall consistently for about a year and a half," said Robyn Hanke, a spokeswoman for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud. "This is the first week it was positive."

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Ruskin said a trough of low pressure dipped south. The Bermuda High, an area of high pressure that strengthens in the summer, usually stalls fronts around Georgia. But the high has moved south this year.

The weather front also created a shear line where winds to the north blew west and winds to the south traveled east. The conflict brewed thunderstorms.

Since Sunday, 7.61 inches have fallen at the Albert Whitted Airport in downtown St. Petersburg and 8.92 inches at Tampa International Airport, according to meteorologists at Bay News 9.

The Mangrove Bay Golf Course in St. Petersburg shut down Wednesday afternoon and didn't open at all Thursday. Two classes of junior golfers had to be rescheduled, disappointing 32 children and teens.

"The course is saturated," said Ken Betz, head professional. "We don't have any golfers. It makes for a long day."

But it's been good news for the area's water resources, which have been woefully dry from nearly two years of puny rainfall.

Alison Adams, senior manager of Tampa Bay Water, which supplies much of the area's drinking water, said this week has made a huge difference.

For the first time all year, the company didn't need to tap into the 15-billion gallon C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir to meet demand. Instead, runoff has added to the supply.

"The problem with the river systems is they have a long memory," Adams said. "We're just starting to get enough flow where we can really see a difference."

June and July were disappointing months for runoff. In a good July, Tampa Bay Water collects 145-million gallons a day from the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay Canal. Last month it received 21-million.

The heavy rain has been a boon to local roofers. People who have procrastinated on fixing their roofs are finding them saturated and coming apart.

Richard Levy, a supervisor at Allstar Roofing & Repair in Tampa, said he has received about 20 calls a day this week. Two weeks ago, he was getting just a trickle.

"Before people were calling and saying, 'How much does it cost?' " Levy said. "Now they're calling and saying, 'How quickly can you do it?' "

Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or sgarry@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts

Wet days

St. Petersburg Times partner Bay News 9 recorded rainfall in inches, Wednesday to Thursday evening:

St. Pete/Clearwater Airport 7.7

MacDill Air Force Base 5.26

New Port Richey 2.08

Brooksville 1.51

Wesley Chapel 1.95

Lecanto 2.85

Lakewood Ranch 1.73

Tropics: A tropical wave is heading toward Jamaica. 4B

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