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Tampa Bay area in store for another chilly, rainy weekend

The highest chance for thunderstorms coincides with the start of the Epiphany celebration Saturday morning in Tarpon Springs. Organizers say it won’t change their plans.
 
Heavy rains expected this weekend could disrupt the Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs Saturday morning. In this image, sponge diver Dimitrios Zaloumis observed flooding on Dodecanese Boulevard in Tarpon Springs on Dec 17 after a low-pressure system moved into Florida bringing storms, heavy rain and flooding to the Tampa Bay area.
Heavy rains expected this weekend could disrupt the Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs Saturday morning. In this image, sponge diver Dimitrios Zaloumis observed flooding on Dodecanese Boulevard in Tarpon Springs on Dec 17 after a low-pressure system moved into Florida bringing storms, heavy rain and flooding to the Tampa Bay area. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jan. 3|Updated Jan. 3

Parishioners and onlookers attending Tarpon Springs’ Epiphany celebration may want to pack an umbrella before heading to church Saturday morning.

A series of rainy weather fronts are expected to roll over Tampa Bay this week and through the weekend. The first patch of rain should arrive Wednesday evening ahead of a more severe disturbance coming Saturday morning.

There is a 50% chance of rain Wednesday, according to Tampa Bay Times news partner Spectrum Bay News 9. Rain chances rise to 80% Saturday morning.

Ali Davis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office, said an unstable front headed east from the Gulf of Mexico means there’s a chance for severe weather — Saturday morning is most at risk for strong storms.

None of the weather is expected to be as severe as a system that flooded some homes and businesses in the Tampa Bay area in mid-December. Less than an inch of rain is expected on Saturday.

“So, more than just showers, but it’s not going to be widespread thunderstorms or anything,” Davis said. “At the very least we are expecting periods of heavy rainfall.”

By Saturday afternoon, skies should be clear and rains will have moved south of the area, forecasters say.

Temperatures will fluctuate with the weekend rain. Current highs in the upper 60s will warm slightly into the low 70s as the storms approach Saturday, Davis said.

Once the front passes, temperatures should drop again into the 60s on Sunday. But the Tampa Bay area won’t be out of the clear just yet.

A third front is expected to pass over the region Sunday, bringing scattered daytime showers. Forecasters predict the area will get up to 2 inches of rain by early next week, Davis said.

Boaters should expect rough seas ahead of the Saturday storms that will likely last through the weekend.

Despite the forecast for rain, Tarpon Springs’ 118th Epiphany celebration, the largest in the Western Hemisphere that commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, will go on as planned.

The procession from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral to Spring Bayou, where boys dive into the water to retrieve a cross, will occur rain or shine, according to spokesperson Johanna Gatzoulis.

The Glendi festival is also still scheduled to take place in Craig Park at 1:30 p.m. following the dive, but Gatzoulis said organizers are in discussions for a “plan B” if the rain makes the gathering with food, music and dancing unfeasible.

”It’s a religious service, so weather does not stop our religious event,” Gatzoulis said.

Times staff writer Tracey McManus contributed to this report.