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Thunderstorms dump rain across Tampa, cancels Lightning watch party

Donnie Williams is knee-deep in a flooded field off Rome Avenue south of Cypress Street in Tampa as the rain continues to pour on Wednesday. Crews had to rescue people from flooded streets after their cars stalled in the high water.
Published Jun. 11, 2015

TAMPA — Halfway down Rome Avenue, rain drumming on the windshield of her Honda Accord, waves cresting over her hood, Rachel Robins really thought she could make it.

Then her car stopped.

"I thought it wasn't as deep as it was," said Robins, 20, of St. Petersburg on Wednesday evening while she sat in the passenger seat of a tow truck near Rome and Kennedy Boulevard.

"It has not been a good day."

Many drivers across the bay area could say the same after huge thundershowers deluged local roads Wednesday afternoon. Cars stalled, roads flooded and sea creatures were seen on city streets.

The highest waters submerged vehicles in South Tampa. The flooded streets backed up other streets across the area. A long line of cars rendered the bridge to Tampa General Hospital in Davis Islands nearly impassable around 5 p.m., according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Van Fleet.

The Tampa Bay Lightning watch party for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final at Curtis Hixon Park was canceled because of rain, thunder, and yes, lightning.

Rainfall from 2.5 to 6 inches soaked Bayshore Boulevard, downtown Tampa, and parts of Temple Terrace, Van Fleet said. He said that one report had 8.2 inches of rain falling near MacDill Air Force Base.

The rain started early in the afternoon and then intensified around 3 p.m. That's when the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reported that several cars stalled at 56th Street and Hanna Avenue in the flooded streets.

Similar reports came through about stretches of Bayshore Boulevard, with Tampa police reporting calls of people trapped in their cars.

WTSP 10News said the storms shut down Manhattan Avenue and Gandy Boulevard. A flood warning for north-central Hillsborough County went into effect around 3 p.m.

Many people tweeted photos of flooding along Tampa's Bayshore and Kennedy boulevards, as well as Dale Mabry Highway. One man was seen standing in ankle-deep water attempting to fly fish on a Davis Islands road.

Near Rome and Kennedy, just outside downtown, the water surged up to Al McCray's knees, mixing with the weeds and the grass. McCray, 63, was driving to his Tampa home from Temple Terrace when the weather hit and he got stuck.

Bystanders helped him push his car out of the water, but he still needed a tow. The only flooding he's ever seen this bad, he said, was "on TV."

Further down Rome, Erin Phillips, 35, sat in her Mercedes SUV, stranded in knee-high water in the middle of the street, after her short trip to the gym had gone awry.

"It's hard to tell how deep it is," she said.

Then she went back to waiting for her husband to arrive.

The good news: today is another day, with a better forecast.

"Most of the water will have receded," Van Fleet said. "The one area where it could be a concern is Bayshore Boulevard, where it floods so easily anyway."

Contact Zack Peterson at zpeterson@tampabay.com. Follow @zackpeterson918. Contact Shaker Samman at ssamman@tampabay.com. Follow @shakersamman.

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