Tropical Storm Barry Brings Rain, Strong Winds, Heavy Surf to Florida

June 4, 2007

Tropical Storm Barry, since downgraded to a tropical depression, brought heavy rain to a parched Florida early Saturday, along with strong winds and heavy surf along the state’s Gulf coast.

Rain was falling throughout the Peninsula, where droughts conditions have left Lake Okeechobee at its lowest recorded level and allowed an isolated brush fire on the Georgia-Florida border to burn for weeks.

“It’ll help a little bit, but everyone is so far below rainfall that we’re still going to be under drought conditions,” said Kim Brabander, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “To really alleviate the drought conditions we’re going to need anywhere from 30 to 40 inches of rain.”

At 5 a.m. EDT on June 2, Barry was centered in the Gulf of Mexico about 180 miles southwest of Tampa and about 175 west-northwest of Key West. It had sustained winds of about 50 mph and was moving north-northeast near 15 mph. Winds of about 40 mph were reported on the state’s southern and eastern coasts.

The storm was not expected to strengthen into a hurricane, said Dave Roberts, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.

A tropical storm warning was issued from Bonita Beach on Florida’s southwest coast northward to Keaton Beach, near the state’s Big Bend area, as Barry was expected to make landfall on the Peninsula’s central or northern Gulf coast by Saturday evening. A tropical storm watch was issued for the area between Keaton Beach west to St. Marks, south of Tallahassee.

The storm’s winds were forecast to weaken as it moves north, but Barry was expected to bring rain across the Atlantic seaboard, reaching North Carolina by late Sunday and New England by late Monday.

The storm developed June 1, the first official day of a hurricane season that forecasters have said they expect to be busier than normal.

“There is no correlation at all between activity in the early part of the season and later parts,” said Lixion Avila, a hurricane specialist at the center.

The hurricane center said Barry threatened to bring dangerous battering waves, coastal flooding up to 5 feet and rainfall of 3 to 6 inches in the Florida Keys up through southeast Georgia. Tropical storm force winds extended outward up to 90 miles, forecasters said.

Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.

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