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Tampa area could use rain from Chantal, water managers say


Published:   |   Updated: July 10, 2013 at 11:49 PM

If the remnants of Tropical Storm Chantal draw close enough to soak the Tampa Bay area, water managers won't complain.

That's because even with all the recent rainfall, the area is running about six inches short of the historic rainfall average for the past 12 months, said Roberta Starks, chief of the data collection bureau for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud.

"If we get up to anything above six inches it's going to get us to that normal amount or just above it," Starks said.

Chantal dissipated into a tropical wave on Wednesday and was expected to weaken further over the next few days into a less dangerous but still wet depression.

A shift in the track also was an encouraging development for flood-prone Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, where heavy rain was still forecast over the next few days but less of it - with two to four inches expected and up to six inches in isolated areas.

Even if it does not strengthen, the storm's remnants promise a wet and windy weekend for South Florida and for much of the state as well.

Despite a six-inch deficit in the Tampa Bay area, capacity in both ground water, or aquifers, and surface water, or streams, rivers and lakes, has increased.

"We're seeing improvement to those resources because of the rainfall," Starks said.

June was a wet month for the area, which received more than 10 inches of rain, compared to an average of 6.39 inches.

The first eight days of July saw nearly four inches of rainfall, which is 45 percent of the average for the entire month, Starks said.

"We hope to continue to have a rainy summer so everything gets back to normal," she said.

One tropical event could put the area at or above average for rainfall.

Last year, the Tampa area had 18.66 inches of rain in June, much of it from Tropical Storm Debbie.

Just how much rain the area gets in the coming weeks will determine whether the water management district board decides to lift water restrictions when it meets on July 30.

The district approved the water restrictions in March, limiting lawn watering and other uses to one day a week for most residents.

The water restrictions are set to expire on July 30 and the district's governing board can allow them to expire or keep them in place.

On Wednesday, Chantal skirted the southern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, losing force but still posing a flood threat to some of the region's most vulnerable people.

The storm was no longer expected to make landfall on the island of Hispaniola shared by the two nations and Dominican officials suspended a tropical storm warning for that country. But forecasters said Chantal could still bring heavy rain to flood-prone areas where people live in flimsy homes of plywood and corrugated steel.

The storm was about 145 miles south of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince Wednesday afternoon, moving west at 29 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was on track to head north across Cuba and toward the Bahamas and Florida.

acarroz@tampatrib.com

Twitter: @andrea_carroz

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