ST. PETERSBURG -- After nine straight days of rain, the bay area received a much needed respite Wednesday — sunny skies and temperatures in the high 80s.
Peter O'Neill, 50, enjoyed seeing the sun again as he sat in Thunder Alley outside Tampa's Amalie Arena. The Bradenton man was waiting for the Tampa Bay Lightning to face the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.
"It's been raining for two weeks, just miserable," he said. "Now I'm sweating, and it's great. It's fantastic. I love this weather."
Well, Peter, forecasters have bad news for you: It's going to get miserable again.
Heavy rain is forecast to return starting today and continuing through the Memorial Day weekend. Blame a low-pressure system called Invest 90L brewing in the Caribbean Sea.
The National Hurricane Center predicted the system would travel north into the Gulf of Mexico this weekend. The center said the system had a 70 percent chance of developing into a tropical system within five days.
Invest 90L is making it particularly hard for Tampa Bay residents to make Memorial Day plans. Forecasters won't get a better idea of what it will do or where it will go until it reaches the gulf late Friday or early Saturday, right in the middle of the three-day weekend, said National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Rude.
"How fast it moves and the exact direction is going to determine how much rain we get through the weekend," he said. "If the track is closer to us, we'll probably see more rain."
If the system turns into a tropical depression, the bay area will get more rain. If it leans northwest, we'll get less. If it turns toward us, we'll get more.
There's even a chance the system could develop into a weak tropical storm, Rude said. "But it's a little too soon to say right now," he said.
What meteorologists do know is that dark skies and thundershowers are set to return as soon as today. The forecast calls for partly sunny skies in the early morning before clouds make a return.
The chance of rain is 50 percent, with thunderstorms returning late in the morning and then turning into scattered showers by the afternoon.
The bay area's nine-day wet streak provided much-needed rainfall. Normal rainfall through May is about 1.3 inches. But in those nine days, the bay area received up to 5.05 inches at the Tampa International Airport monitoring station, or about 4 inches above normal.