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Tornadoes Break Out Across Tampa Bay

Posted on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 5:00 PM MST

PINELLAS PARK, FL -- Everything was in place for an epic severe weather outbreak along the I-75 corridor east of Tampa Bay. After a frustrating afternoon waiting for storms to fire and coming up empty, I sat down to dinner in front of a Two and a Half Men episode.

As soon as the episode ended, the TV started buzzing and the NOAA Weather Radio broadcast came on, informing us that a large supercell had spawned a tornado in downtown Tampa (at I-4 and US-301, 6:42 PM), and we should seek shelter immediately, as they expected a tornado outbreak across the region. Tornado warnings had gone up for the entire Tampa Bay area.

I quickly jumped in my truck and sped north on I-275, trying to beat the torrential rain to the boat ramps at the Gandy Bridge to catch a glimpse of the tornadoes. A brief stop in St. Pete turned up nothing other than a spectacular lightning display, so I continued north. Sadly, that stop ended up being the difference in me not seeing the twisters. The torrential downpour started as I was on Gandy Blvd, waiting for the 4th St. traffic light to turn green.

Despite not seeing what I came for, I still successfully managed to intercept the storm. Along with the Tampa tornado, the supercell ended up dropping 3 waterspouts in Tampa Bay, one between the Gandy Bridge and the Howard Frankland Bridge, one just east of the Gandy Bridge, and one about half way between Weedon Island and MacDill Airforce Base. Even with my best efforts to get a visual, the tornadoes were gone by the time the rain stopped; however, it turned what would have been a major flop into a very successful evening.

Posted In: Chase Recaps

Tagged: Tornado, Waterspout, Memorable