Video: A stormy welcome

updated 6/2/2007 6:15:06 PM ET 2007-06-02T22:15:06

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 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,” Brown said.

In Mexico, Tropical Storm Barbara made landfall Saturday 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 people were evacuated from coastal communities in Mexico’s southern Chiapas state, Radio Formula reported. The state’s civil protection department did not return a phone call to The Associated Press.

In the Guatemalan border town of Ocos, at least 100 people were evacuated after the storm tore roofs of their homes.

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

May bring relief to firefighters
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 anymore,” said the Florida Division of Forestry’s Mike Newell. “It’s too early to tell right now. 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 on Saturday. Isolated areas could get up to 10 inches of rain.

“This is a blessing,” said Bob Buning, an employee at MacRae’s Bait Shop in Homosassa. “We needed this rain really bad.”

Anglers and recreational boaters had taken back to the Homosassa River by Saturday afternoon.

The National Weather Service said isolated tornadoes over central Florida were possible.

Start of hurricane season
By Saturday morning, Barry had brought nearly 6 inches of rain to Melbourne and nearly 7 inches to West Palm Beach.

“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 storm developed Friday, the first official day of a hurricane season that forecasters have said they expect to be busier than normal. The National Weather Service said it expects 13 to 17 tropical storms, with seven to 10 becoming hurricanes and three to five in the strong category.

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.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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