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Bonnie douses Florida with rain

As a low-end tropical storm, Bonnie brushed South Florida with a smattering of heavy rain and some flooding Friday, hardly as fierce as some late-afternoon summer thunderstorms.

By day’s end, it had moved into the Gulf of Mexico and was downgraded to a tropical depression. Yet it is expected to strengthen somewhat as it leaves the Florida Peninsula and traverses the warm waters of the Gulf, where its projected track takes it across the vast oceanic work site around the BP oil spill.

Partially deflated by wind shear overnight Thursday, Bonnie made landfall about 11 a.m. Friday near Cutler Bay in South Miami-Dade County, but most of its nasty weather already had moved onshore, the National Hurricane Center said.

It replenished parched lawns with an average of one inch of rain as it marched across the state and entered the Gulf near Fort Myers. Some areas experienced up to four inches of rain, but because of the storm’s speed, it caused little significant flooding, said the South Florida Water Management District, which channeled storm water away from populated zones.

Friday’s rainfall totaled just .35 inches as of 10 p.m. at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, according to the National Weather Service website. The highest wind gust at the airport registered 21 mph.

By early afternoon in South Florida, winds had subsided, most rain had ceased, watches and warnings were lifted and Port Everglades and ports in Miami and Key West resumed normal operations. The sun even made a brief appearance over downtown Miami.

The storm produced winds of 40 mph, barely tropical storm status, and could lose its center of circulation as it passes over land at a brisk 18 mph. While it may be downgraded to an open wave, or area of low pressure, forecasters said, it still could regain strength and threaten efforts to permanently cap the Deepwater Horizon Spill and clean up its mess.

— The Sun Sentinel contributed to this report.

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