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The rain keeps falling. The water keeps rising. And catfish roam the streets.

A small catfish was spotted swimming across flooded River Drive in Lithia on Saturday as the nonstop rains caused the nearby Alafia River to rise by about 2 feet over flood stage. [ANASTASIA DAWSON   |   Times]
A small catfish was spotted swimming across flooded River Drive in Lithia on Saturday as the nonstop rains caused the nearby Alafia River to rise by about 2 feet over flood stage. [ANASTASIA DAWSON | Times]
Published Aug. 17, 2019

LITHIA — The catfish had River Drive to themselves on Saturday.

Days of nonstop rain finally led the Alafia River to bulge and swell over its banks, sending 1 to 2 feet of water into nearby River Drive by Saturday and allowing catfish to swim by the stilted homes scattered throughout the Lithia Springs Conservation Park.

There were other catfish sightings across the region, too, thanks to August's above-normal rainfall totals. The constant thundershowers continued the minor street flooding across the bay area, pushed rivers close to or just over flood stage and overwhelmed local wastewater systems this weekend.

Tampa International Airport's rain gauge has recorded 8.53 inches of rainfall so far in the month of August — 4.29 inches above normal and it's the middle of the month. St. Petersburg has recorded 8.72 inches of rain, which is 4.49 above normal. But for the past three days it is Hernando County that may have seen the heaviest rains in the region. The Hernando Beach gauges have recorded 7 to 11 inches total so far this month.

Most of the Tampa Bay area has seen above-normal rainfall both for the month and year, according to the National Weather Service. The recent rains led to a flood watch being ordered until Sunday night or Monday morning, which is when forecasters believe the current deluge will finally end as a low pressure system departs the area.

The last of the storms will appear Monday morning, then the westerly winds currently driving clouds over the bay should start to blow to the east, meteorologist Eric Oglesby said, pushing rain clouds south toward the state's interior, .

The trough of low pressure should then be replaced by an area of high pressure that will return Tampa Bay to a more normal Florida summer pattern, he said. So there will still be rain, but just the usual afternoon showers.

"It won't be like what we've been seeing for the last several days," Oglesby said. "We've been in a very wet pattern with widespread showers and thunderstorms each day."

The constant downpours saturated the soil and started overwhelming some wastewater systems. Reports of waste of various amounts and cleanliness bubbling up through manholes and stormwater drains were reported in Hernando, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Hillsborough has reported the most discharges this month, sending 44 reports to the state. Here are this weekend's most recent reports:

• St. Petersburg workers spent Saturday trying to contain a discharge from "multiple" manholes just north of Roberts Recreation Center at 1246 50th Ave. N. They were reported between Fifth and 12th Streets N and 50th and 54th Avenues N, according to reports the city sent the state. The expelled wastewater likely flowed into the stormwater system which discharges to the 54th Avenue Ditch and into Placido Bayou, the report said. Warning signs were placed at manholes.

• In New Port Richey, about 5,000 gallons was discharged Saturday from manholes at 4618 Corner Court and 5029 Blue Heron Drive. Some of that did reach storm drains, the report said.

• Gulfport reported that stormwater intrusion caused the manhole at 50th Street and 31st Avenue S to leak about 750 gallons.

• Clearwater's Marshall Street Wastewater Treatment discharged about 1,000 1,000 gallons of "partially-treated effluent and solids" on Friday, according to the state.

• Largo reported Friday that it had discharges of up to 100 gallons per minute at manholes at 1931 W Bay Drive and 1130 Fifth Ave. NE and a discharge of 50 gallons per minute at Hillsdale Avenue and Gladys Street. In two of those cases, the report said the discharges reached bodies of water.

• Dunedin reported that heavy rains caused around 250 gallons of sewage to be released from manhole covers near the 1500 block of Sandalwood Drive, the 2600 block of Bellhurst Drive and the 2400 block of Indigo Drive.

All that water saturating the ground and filling underground pipes leaves the bay area vulnerable to more rain, more flooding and more discharges, especially if another rain event heads this way — or worse still, if a major storm or hurricane takes aim at the region or just passes close enough to drench it.

That would also worsen the situation for those who live along the Alafia and other local rivers. The often flood-prone Anclote River in Pasco County was creeping closer to flood stage by Saturday evening, Ogelsby said, but was expected to stay around that level.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

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