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Monday, Oct 16, 2017
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Storms bring Tampa record rainfall, flooding, power outages

Torrential downpours that have blanketed the Tampa Bay area and counties to the north are expected to clear out Sunday evening and typical summertime weather likely will return by the middle of next week, the National Weather Service reported.

That was little consolation for a waterlogged region that has dealt with seemingly unrelenting rain for days now stretching into weeks.

Saturday was particularly wet with record-setting rainfall, flooded streets and water sloshing up to some doorways.

“We just haven’t had a chance to dry out,” said Jean Duncan, Tampa’s director of Transportation and Storm Water Operations and Maintenance. “With this volume of water on top of all that, we’re just seeing flooding all over the city.”

Tampa International Airport received almost 3.5 inches of rain by 8 p.m. Saturday, a new record for Aug. 1, the weather service reported. A total of 11.7 inches of rain fell at the airport in all of July — and that’s more than 4 inches above average.

Roads were flooded and closed Saturday afternoon as heavy rains pounded the bay area. Law enforcement and government officials warned drivers to avoid flooded roads, but vehicles were stalled or abandoned on roads throughout Tampa in the wake of Saturday’s rain.

The wet weather initially led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to cancel their first training camp practice of the season. The storms ebbed Saturday evening, enabling the team to stage a workout on the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus.

City of Tampa staffers came to work Saturday after receiving more than 50 calls to an after-hours line about flooding, Duncan said. They monitored a dozen water pump stations scattered throughout the city, made sure storm drains were not blocked and coordinated with law enforcement officials to close flooded roads.

They tried to help where they could, Duncan said. “There’s not a whole lot we can do to actually take the water away,” she said.

Tampa Electric Co. reported 2,055 people without power in an area south of Gandy Boulevard in South Tampa on Saturday afternoon, and smaller outages were reported elsewhere in the city.

The Lois Avenue ramp at Interstate 275 was closed due to high water during the afternoon, the Florida Highway Patrol reported. Stretches of Bay to Bay Boulevard and Dale Mabry Highway in South Tampa were under water, and officials reported multiple impassable roads in North Hillsborough, too.

Deep water covered the intersection of Kennedy Boulevard and MacDill Avenue, causing major traffic delays along the busy roads. Employees and customers at Miguel’s Mexican Seafood and Grill restaurant, which is at the intersection, were stuck there until the water receded, manager Angela Funk said.

Water rose to a few inches beneath the restaurant’s front patio, she said. When trucks rolled by they pushed waves onto the deck. “It’s crazy right now,” she said late Saturday afternoon.

Most of the rain fell along the coast, said weather service meteorologist Rodney Wynn. More heavy rain is expected Sunday, but it should let up by the evening. By the middle of the week the weather should resume its usual pattern for this time of year, with lots of sun and scattered afternoon thunderstorms.

“That’s what we’re all hoping for, but we’re still in it for another two to three days,” Wynn said.

A flood warning remains in effect until 8 p.m. Sunday for Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus and Levy counties. Flood warnings are also in effect for the Little Manatee River in Wimauma and Cypress Creek in northern Hillsborough County.

Sandbag materials are available in Hillsborough County from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., as weather conditions permit, at the County Public Works West Service Unit, 9805 Sheldon Road. The city of Tampa also is making sandbags available to city residents from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jackson Heights Playground, 3310 E. Lake Ave., and City of Tampa Solid Waste, 4010 W. Spruce St.

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