- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 2, 2007

HOMOSASSA SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) — Tropical Storm Barry weakened into a tropical depression as it moved through Tampa Bay yesterday, 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 made landfall in the Tampa Bay area around 10 a.m. EDT, according to Daniel Brown, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center.

“The landfall in a case like this is kind of insignificant,” Mr. Brown said.

In Mexico, Tropical Storm Barbara made landfall yesterday and weakened into a depression as it moved inland from the southern Pacific coast near the Guatemala border, an area notoriously vulnerable to flooding.

At least 1,400 persons were evacuated from coastal communities in Mexico’s southern Chiapas state, Radio Formula reported. In the Guatemalan border town of Ocos, at least 100 persons were evacuated after the storm tore roofs off their homes.

With maximum winds of nearly 35 mph and higher, Barbara was centered about 20 miles north of the Mexican city of Tapachula. The storm was heading northeast at 7 mph, and is expected to weaken as it moves further inland.

Rain was falling throughout drought-stricken Florida and Georgia, where the dry conditions have fed wildfires for weeks.

“We’re hoping several of these fires will not be a problem any more,” said the Florida Division of Forestry’s Mike Newell. “Everybody’s basically waiting for the rain to stop to go out and see what’s going on.”

The depression was expected to drop 3 to 6 inches of rain on parts of those states, along with 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 to escape this classification.

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