By Jeff Odom
Tropical Storm Andrea didn’t make a direct hit in the Tampa Bay area on June 4, but the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season provided what many people believe is a sign of things to come this year.
The storm, which made landfall along the Big Bend of Florida, packed winds up to 65 mph and dumped nearly half a foot of rain across the state causing street flooding, before moving up the east coast of the United States.
Aside from major rainfall, Andrea also spawned at least six tornadoes around the state, with the worst one affecting Pinellas County, where the National Weather Service said one touched down and damaged multiple buildings.
It wasn’t the severity of the storm that had many people worried, but how early it formed — just six days into the new season.
Mark Wainwright, a cashier at the Publix Supermarket located at 3939 Van Dyke Road in Lutz, said there were many people preparing as the storm moved across the Gulf of Mexico.
“The customers didn’t really seem very worried about the storm, most of them just didn’t want to get wet when the rain started coming down,” Wainwright said. “The lights went out at the store for about a minute, but even then no one seemed too concerned. … When it started to rain really hard (when the outer bands were coming ashore) most people decided to shop a little longer to wait it out, and the most common thing I saw people buying as a result of that was candy, sweets, junk food, et cetera.”
Wainwright added most people actually saw the storm as being beneficial, because of the prolonged dry conditions the area has seen during the past few months.
“I heard a lot of people saying how it was a good thing because we needed the rain,” Wainwright said. “I know that my neighborhoods homeowners association sent out letters to everyone telling us that we could only water our grass on Thursdays because we were having a small drought.”
Not all residents felt that way, though.
Aaron O’Brien, who works at the Publix at 2121 Collier Parkway in Land O’ Lakes, said some customers were very concerned about the possibility of flooding and most bought storm essentials like batteries, water and canned goods.
“Several people were very concerned about the storm,” O’Brien said. “We were very busy in the morning of the storm, backing up for quite some time and continued to be pretty steady the rest of the day even through the rain. The feeling was pretty split with many very used to these storms rolling through every year and many knowing it would only be a rain event. Others felt it was a sign of what was to come this year.”
While Andrea brought a great deal of rain, it was not enough to wash out high school graduations or the Hillsborough County school day, though, as the district decided, the conditions were safe enough to have class.
Martinez Middle physical education instructor, Chip Geraghty, said everything went smoothly. He added that the school’s staff and administration were keeping an eye on the storm throughout the day and took necessary precautions when a tornado watch or warning was issued.
“I happened to be in the office at the time and saw the office staff monitoring the storm and communicating information to administrators and staff with relative efficiency and ease,” Geraghty said. “I felt we were well prepared and the lines of communication were open and smooth. The inconvenience of the situation had a minimal effect on any lessons as the paused extended travel time for caution (during warnings) were the only changes.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said this hurricane season — which runs through Nov. 30 — will be particularly active, with up to 20 tropical storms and as many as 11 hurricanes — up to six of them intense.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.