A wave of strong thunderstorms that swept through the Tampa Bay area in the late morning and early afternoon today flooded homes, shut down roads, canceled events and forced school officials to relocate students.
The National Weather Service declared a a flash flood warning for the area until 1 p.m. as storms passed through the region.
Tampa police reported several locations with flooded vehicles, including: Nebraska Avenue at Hanna Avenue, Bougainvillea Avenue at 30th Street; Florida Avenue at Linebaugh Avenue, and 22nd Street at 109th Avenue.
At 11:30 a.m., Tampa Electric reported 2,553 customers without power. Of those, 1,264 were customers in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. Forest Hills Elementary School lost power for more than an hour.
A power line downed by the torrential downpour backed up traffic on 30th Street. Portions of North 50th Street also were under water, causing a traffic snarl extending for at least a mile. Several traffic signals were out along Busch Boulevard. Flooding also has been reported on the USF campus, including reports that the Fowler Avenue entrance to the campus is completely under water, with abandoned cars at the entrance and parking lots with cars swamped.
Tanya Arja, spokesperson for Hillsborough County school district, said a wing of Middleton High was shut down Friday morning due to several leaks in a small number of classrooms. The school is located near 22nd Street and Hillsborough Avenue. The courtyard at the school also was flooded, prompting teachers to send students to lunch a few classrooms at a time, so they could avoided the flooded area, she said.
Area directors for the school district have been checking throughout the day for any other weather-related issues on campuses throughout the county, Arja said.
Vegetables and fruit floated from the flooded MK Produce wholesale and retail stand at the intersection of 30th Street and Hillsborough Avenue. Connie Copeland-Joplin, whose family has owned the property since 1946, said the market has flooded before, but never this much. An $11 million renovation of corner’s drainage two years ago by city workers was no match for the deluge.
“There’s peppers, garlic, tomatoes and cantaloupe floating by,” Copeland-Joplin said.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reported flooding and debris at 143rd Avenue and 12th Street, a mail truck half-submerged at Hanna Avenue and 53rd Street, due to flooding and water up to the doors of cars at 52nd Street and Fletcher Avenue.
Flooding was also reported this morning at Harney Road and David Road and Fowler Avenue and 56th Street was reported under water, with standing water covering the median.
Sligh Avenue and 50th Street also had flooding, according to the HCSO.
Temple Terrace city officials advise motorists to avoid the intersections of 56th Street at Fowler Avenue and 56th Street at Busch Boulevard. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department reported that water was so deep on north Howard Avenue that a bus had become stuck in the flood waters.The TECO Line Streetcar System between Ybor City and downtown was suspended due to flooding at 6th Avenue and Nuccio Parkway in Ybor City.
Hillsborough County is making sandbags available, as weather conditions permit, at its three County Public Works Service Units: 9805 Sheldon Road, 8718 Old Big Bend Road, and 4702 Sydney Road. Residents can call (813) 635-5400 to report flooding, report road problems, or ask for more information.
The Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Red Cross is opening a shelter tonight at the Bible Based Fellowship Church of Temple Terrace, 8718 N. 46th St. , for people evacuated from their homes or have lost power.
Earlier, the weather service issued a flood advisory for northern Hillsborough and southern Pasco counties through 11:45 a.m. At 10:19 a.m., radar indicated rainfall rates of 3 to 4 inches per hour in this area. Between 6 and 8 inches were reported to have fallen in Temple Terrace and New Tampa.
The weather service previously issued a flood advisory through 11:15 a.m. for northwest Hillsborough, southwest Pasco and north Pinellas counties that has since been cancelled.
The weather cancelled several events, including the Friday Extra Concert Series at Lowry Park Bandshell and the Do the Local Motion lunchtime guided walking tour of downtown. The third annual Burger Showdown scheduled for Curtis Hixon Park said it would still go on from 5 to 9 p.m. this evening under the cover of the Gasparailla Plaza north of the park.
The downpours are associated with a cold front that brought floods to the Florida Panhandle the past two days, forecasters say.
Anyone with outdoor plans through Saturday night might want to reconsider.
Rick Davis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin said the same rains that hammered the Panhandle earlier this week will continue dumping on Central Florida through Saturday night.
“It’s a stalled front and that is the issue,” Davis said. “Essentially, the system started early this morning and we are expecting another 24 to 36 hours of this rainfall. We have a stalled front that is just parked across us.” The system will result in bands of rain coming in periodically, he said.
The area may not have seen the last of the flash flooding, either. If the front “trains” on that same area, or any other area, Davis said, more flash flooding could occur.
This is not a typical spring storm, Davis said. “It’s a pretty large system that stretches from the western Atlantic across the Central Florida portion of the peninsula and in to the Gulf of Mexico. It has been slowly moving from the Panhandle to our area and will stay here, possibly through tomorrow evening.”
A more typical storm going in to summer would drop just one to two inches of rain, Davis said. But this kind of storm challenges the area’s drainage system.
“Our slogan, so to speak, is, ‘Turn around, don’t drown.’” Driving through standing water can actually be deadly,” he said,
Because water is rushing toward storm drains, a person who gets out of a car stuck in high water could potentially be risking their life because they could get sucked under as the water rushes to drainage areas.
Staff writers Yvette C. Hammett and Cloe Cabrera contributed to this report