Tropical Storm Debby Bearing Down on Florida Panhandle

January 9, 2013

The large, stalled out tropical storm Debby pounded Florida on Sunday and spawned twisters in the central portion of the state that claimed one adult victim. Two tornadoes destroyed four houses in the southern end of Highland County and damaged several others. The victim was found inside a home located in Venus which is in the middle of Florida.

As of 7 pm Sunday, Debby was just over 110 miles south/southwest of Apalachicola, FL according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm has already caused trouble and is likely to be responsible for flooding in the days to come. But because Debby stalled out Sunday evening and is not moving, it’s hard for forecasters to say where it will end up.

In Clearwater, rescue personnel responded to 30 calls in an hour as of 6pm Sunday to assist motorists stranded in their vehicles due to flooding. Many Clearwater beach areas were underwater as were many surface streets and at least two major highways. Residents living in low lying areas on the Panhandle were told they must evacuate Sunday evening due to flooding there. With the stores eye taking aim at the Tampa and Petersburg areas, one of the more densely populated regions of Florida could creating a major flooding problem.

The National Weather Service is predicting that Debby will make landfall on the Florida Panhandle Thursday. It is warning however that the storm’s track remains uncertain. The tropical storm could dump up to 15 inches of rain in the Panhandle and on other portions of the state with as much as 25 inches possible in some areas.

The southern portion of Georgia could get up to 10 inches of rain from Debby while parts of coastal Alabama and southeastern Louisiana could see between five to ten inches of rain – raising flooding concerns. This amount of rain on top of recent rainfall and wet ground conditions could cause very serious flooding along the eastern Gulf coast. Heavy rains with storm surges and high tides could cause up to six feet of flooding along Florida’s Big Bend coastline and along the Mississippi coastline where two to four feet deep floodwaters could swamp areas there.

Debby has raised concerns for workers on the nearly 600 oil and gas production platforms located in the Gulf of Mexico. Shell has already evacuated hundreds of workers Saturday and was planning on moving more out. BP has also evacuated most of its offshore staff in the gulf due to the tropical storm.

Debby is a very large storm which has tropical storm force winds of 60 miles per hour extending out 200 miles from its center. If Debby’s wind speeds increase to over 74 miles per hour, it will be upgraded to a hurricane. Whether or not the tropical storm will become a hurricane is not known. However, Debby is already a record-setter as it is the earliest date for the fourth named storm of any tropical season in the Atlantic basin.

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