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Barry Downgraded After Soaking Central Florida

POSTED: 4:48 pm EDT June 1, 2007
UPDATED: 8:39 pm EDT June 2, 2007

Forecasters say Tropical Storm Barry is no more. The storm weakened into a tropical depression and moved across Florida, Saturday.

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Rain slick highways throughout Central Florida made driving dangerous as several accidents were caused by the weather. In Brevard and Volusia counties, the weather was a factor in accidents that killed two people.

A sinkhole just west of the Eau Gaille Causeway shut down the road for several hours Saturday morning before repairs were made just before 1pm.

Early Saturday morning, a tractor trailer hit a guardrail on westbound I-4 near Orlando causing traffic disruptions. While rescue crews were dealing with a small fuel spill from that accident, another tractor trailer spun out due to the rain and crashed into the first accident scene. here were no injuries.

Tropical Storm Barry weakened into a tropical depression as it moved through Tampa Bay on Saturday, bringing nearly 7 inches of rain to parts of the drought-parched region.

Forecasters discontinued the tropical storm warnings and watches issued for stretches of the Gulf Coast. The depression's sustained winds had slowed to near 35 mph and it was moving north-northeast at about 23 mph.

The storm, which formed on the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, made landfall in the Tampa Bay area in the morning and had moved across the state to Jacksonville by the evening, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Dry conditions in Florida have left Lake Okeechobee, the second-largest freshwater lake in the contiguous United States, at its lowest recorded level and allowed a brush fire on the Georgia-Florida border to burn for weeks.

"This is a blessing," said Bob Buning, an employee at MacRae's Bait Shop in Homosassa, where boaters had returned to the Homosassa River by Saturday afternoon. "We needed this rain really bad."

By Saturday morning, Barry had brought nearly 6 inches of rain to Melbourne and nearly 7 inches to West Palm Beach. It was expected to drop 3 to 6 inches of rain on parts Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Isolated areas could get up to 10 inches of rain.

"It'll help a little bit, but everyone is so far below rainfall that we're still going to be under drought conditions," said Kim Brabander, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. She said 30 to 40 inches of rain was needed.

The rain was expected to help cool down some of the smoldering areas of a massive wildfire along the Florida-Georgia border, allowing fire crews to focus where the fire is actively raging, said Larry Morris with the firefighters' joint information center.

Barry was rapidly losing the characteristics of a tropical depression, the hurricane center said.

"This is going to be a weather maker, it's just not going to be a tropical system," Senior Hurricane Specialist Richard Knabb said.

Barry formed more than three weeks after the first named storm of the year -- Subtropical Storm Andrea -- developed off Florida's eastern coast. Andrea skirted the southern Atlantic coast but caused minimal damage.

The National Weather Service said it expects 13 to 17 tropical storms in the Atlantic hurricane season, with seven to 10 becoming hurricanes and three to five in the strong category.

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