Rain, but no wind

MANATEE — Residents generally escaped the damaging effects of wind and torrential rain that swept through off and on all day Tuesday and dropped welcome amounts of rain, emergency personnel said.

A lightning-caused roof fire destroyed a house northwest of Bradenton, and a second strike in the same area set a tree in Robinson Preserve on fire.

But there were no other reports to Manatee County Emergency Center Communications of roofs damaged by wind that reached 45 mph in gusts, or trees pushed over by wind and soggy ground.

The forecast for today is for a clear, cool morning.

Other areas of Central Florida were not as fortunate. Three small tornadoes tore up homes in Pasco and northern Hillsborough counties in the morning.

Twenty Florida counties were under tornado watches at times during the day, but in Manatee no damaging winds struck.

Rainfall to the drought-stricken area was measured by the National Weather Service at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport at 1.18 inches, but that amount appeared to be one of the lightest in the county.

Weather Service forecaster Tom Dougherty, who lives in west Bradenton, said radar that extrapolates precipitation amounts tracked a swath of storms across northern Longboat Key, the Bayshore area of Manatee and east Bradenton that got three inches of rain “and probably four.”

Parrish may have been in the path too as weather watcher Bill Mork measured 1.93 inches at his home, with more than an inch coming between 11:30 a.m. and noon.

“This is the heaviest rain since early October,” Mork said.

The area has been extremely dry and considered by the Florida Division of Forestry to be in extreme fire-risk conditions. The rain was expected to take the area out of extreme conditions if only for a few days.

The Tuesday storms and showers don’t bridge to the seasonal summer rains, but “four or five of these will get us there,” Dougherty said.

Of reports from many counties about storm damage, the NWS forecaster said there was “nothing around Bradenton.”

By nightfall, the storms had pushed south and were striking Fort Myers and Charlotte Harbor.

But heavy clouds continued to hang over Manatee well into the night.

The evening was as dark as it gets during the afternoon summer thunderstorms.

Starting at mid-morning, the storms rotated up from the southwest along the leading section of a cool front that was pushing southeastward.

For once this dry winter and spring, the area was ahead of the usual monthly rainfall. At the airport, the 1.18 inches of rain added to the April rain so far of 1.45 inches. The normal through 14 days of April is an even 1 inch, according to Weather Service figures.

Despite the surge in rain, the regional water district for Manatee and 15 other counties issued an urgent request that residents and subdivisions skip their next lawn watering to save on dwindling drinking water supplies.

Herald reporters Beth Burger and Robert Napper, and Associated Press writer Christine Armario contributed to this report.

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