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June 3, 2007

Barry brings precious gift of rain

Storm soaks county with 6 inches, putting a damper on fire threat

BY SUSANNE CERVENKA
FLORIDA TODAY

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  Wet ride. A biker makes his way down a flooded Riverside Drive in Rockledge after Tropical Storm Barry's deluge. Rik Jesse, FLORIDA TODAY
WEB EXTRAS

Local forecast from National Weather Service
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Tropical Storm Barry, which dumped record June rainfall on Brevard County, has put a significant damper on the area's long-standing brush fire threat, weather forecasters said Saturday.

Barry, the first named storm since hurricane season officially began Friday, brought almost the same amount of rain as the area has seen since
Jan. 1. Through May, the National Weather Service in Melbourne recorded 7.10 inches of precipitation, just more than half of the 13.91 inches that the area typically sees through that span.

Clouds are expected to linger today as the storm system pulls away from the area, said Matt Bragaw, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Melbourne. Temperatures will be in the upper 80s to low 90s with lows in the upper 60s to low 70s.

There's a 20 percent or less chance of rain despite the partly cloudy forecast for the rest of the weekend, he said.

Barry, which was downgraded early Saturday afternoon to a tropical depression, soaked Brevard with 6.03 inches of rain, with 5.28 inches of that coming between midnight and noon. That was a record amount locally not only for the date, but also for any day in June.

The rain topped the average rainfall for June of 5.83 inches and brings Brevard almost up to the normal rainfall average for this time of year.

While the rain was a welcomed sight, the downpour and wind gusts of 30 to 35 mph wrought minor trouble in some areas. A section of Eau Gallie Boulevard caved in, closing the road just west of Pineapple Avenue for much of Saturday. Melbourne police found the 6- to 7-foot in diameter crater just after 8 a.m. Minor street flooding also was reported on Merritt Island and in Palm Bay, Melbourne and Rockledge.

The damage on Eau Gallie may have been caused by a crack in a storm water drainage pipe that runs beneath the street, said Scott Price, a supervisor with the Florida Department of Transportation. Because of the water flow, a crack would have created a suction that drew dirt into the pipe, contributing to the collapse.

FDOT has plans to insert a camera into the pipe to confirm whether there is a crack, Price said.

Brevard is not necessarily through with its drought, which has stretched back through last year. With the exception of November, Melbourne has seen below-normal rainfall every month since August.

"It will help some, but I would be hesitant to say the drought is over," Bragaw said.

However, Barry did significantly cut the wildfire threat in Brevard.

"When you get rainfall at this magnitude it certainly helps put a damper on it, literally," Bragaw said.

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index, a key indicator of wildfire threat, plummeted 358 points in Brevard. Friday, the county's drought index was a mean of 660 with ranges between 579 and 712. Saturday the index ranged from 1 and 531 with a mean of 301. The index ranges from 0 to 800 with drought conditions heightened as the numbers increase.

Suntree resident Brad Magill was glad to see the rain, even if it did mean he had to drain about four inches of water out of his pool.

The 52-year-old said he woke several times during the night to hear the pounding of the rain against his roof.

"I said, 'It looks like we're getting the rain we need,' " Magill said. "I'd like to see two more storms like that in the next month."

Contact Cervenka at 360-1018 or scervenka@floridatoday.com.


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