TAMPA — Eyes across the world and beyond are on Tampa Bay for the Super Bowl today, just as Mother Nature showcased a local icon that ranks right up there with beaches, palm trees and manatees.
Thunderstorms rolled through the region right before dawn, introducing visitors to the strikes from the sky that justify west-central Florida’s claim — by some metrics — to the title, “Lightning capital of North America.”
But lightning won’t drive the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the field tonight, forecasters say. Raymond James Stadium should dry out well before the Bucs meet the Kansas City Chiefs at 6:30 p.m. in Super Bowl 55.
High temperatures on Sunday should reach the low 70s before dipping into the low 60s during the game, Spectrum Bay News 9 meteorologist Josh Linker said. Temperatures should reach 65 degrees by tonight’s 6:30 p.m. kickoff, dipping to 62 degrees for the halftime show and 60 degrees at the start of the fourth quarter.
“We’ll see mainly clear skies, a couple of clouds and cooler drier weather with things looking really good for the Super Bowl,” Linker said. “It’ll be a bit breezy out there, but nothing too significant.”
The Weather Service predicted it will be a bit windy at the start of the Super Bowl, with gusts at 10 and 15 mph out of the northwest but dying down quickly. It wasn’t immediately clear how that will affect kicking and passing attempts with the north-south orientation of Raymond James Stadium.
And, yes, eyes beyond the world are on Tampa Bay, too: The International Space Station retweeted an image of the area Friday from Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
A tornado watch was in effect for the Tampa Bay region through 7 a.m. Sunday but there were no reports of tornados or storm damage, even though winds reached 40 mph, Jennifer Hubbard, a meteorologist with the Weather Service, said.
By the 8 a.m. forecast, strong northwesterly winds were expected to sweep lingering storm clouds out of Tampa Bay by midday. Drier cooler air should flow in around 10 a.m. and make way for some sunshine this afternoon. A brief cold front will settle over the city by kickoff time.
The Weather Service issued a marine advisory for dense sea fog this morning over the northern and central coastal waters, from Englewood north to the Suwannee River area. Seas will run from 2 feet to 4 feet with a moderate chop, forecasters said.
It’s not uncommon to see more severe weather across the Tampa Bay region during the winter months, Hubbard said.
“The difference is that, in the wintertime, lightning and thunderstorms typically come with approaching cold front passages whereas in the summer time we have thunderstorms almost every day because our sea breezes act like mini cold fronts,” Hubbard said.
Tampa Bay’s unique location and shape on Florida’s peninsula — surrounded by water that typically becomes cooler than the afternoon temperatures over land — creates the perfect conditions for thunderstorms to form almost daily during the summer months, Hubbard said.
But while summer storms tend to go away as quickly as they came during the summer, sweeping cold fronts can last long enough to produce squall-like conditions, she said.
The weather has been largely pleasant leading up to the fifth Super Bowl in Tampa, despite a brief cold snap Monday and Tuesday that dropped overnight lows to the mid-30s. Florida’s signature sunshine warmed the city back up for much of the NFL’s week-long Super Bowl Experience attraction downtown.
For Monday, early forecasts show rain clouds returning to the region but only a slight chance of showers, said Linker with Spectrum BayNews 9.
Then, just as quickly as they came, cool, breezy temps will pack up and head out of town alongside the spectacle that was the Super Bowl, leaving the region with warmer than usual temperatures in the mid- to upper-70s for much of the week ahead.
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