Debby’s deluge: 2 feet of rain, thousands flee floods
By Miguel Llanos
updated 6/26/2012 3:25:54 PM
River flooding from Tropical Depression Debby — downgraded from a tropical storm late Tuesday — forced up to 20,000 people out of their homes in one Florida county alone, while another area had already seen more than 26 inches of rain, topping the official forecast calling for up to 25 inches in a few areas by the time Debby moves out.
In Pasco County near Tampa Bay, a mandatory evacuation was ordered between the Anclote and Pithlachascotee rivers, Reuters reported. The Anclote rose from 9 feet before Debby’s approach to more than 27 feet on Tuesday, flooding areas with water head-high in places.
Boats were used to reach stranded residents, and 106 homes had been damaged.
Wakulla County, meanwhile, has seen more than 26 inches of rain. Authorities there advised people to stay in their homes due to washed out and flooded roads.
Flash flood warnings were issued for parts of northern Florida and southern Georgia as Debby moved eastward. By midday, Debby picked up speed to 6 mph and winds had dropped to 40 mph, but that didn’t stop the rain.
Parts of Interstate 10 in north Florida were closed due to flooding on a 50-mile stretch between Jacksonville and Tallahassee.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted, many having to leave flooded homes in Florida’s Panhandle on Monday and others losing power or having property hit by twisters.
Debby made landfall near Steinhatchee on Tuesday afternoon, earlier than expected. Despite the downgrade to a tropical depression, Debby was still dumping rain and could return as a tropical storm when it exits Florida’s Atlantic coast.
On Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a statewide emergency as five inches of rain in the course of an hour fell on some areas.
President Barack Obama called Scott on Tuesday and the federal government stands “ready to provide additional assistance if necessary,” the White House said.
The National Hurricane Center predicted parts of northern Florida could see 25 inches of rain by the time Debby crosses Florida and exits into the Atlantic.
Weather.com noted that 2012 broke the record for the most named storms so early in the Atlantic season. Debby makes four so far, “leapfrogging Dennis from July 5, 2005.
“In an average year, the fourth named storm would have occurred by August 23,” it added. “In terms of named storm counts, we’re roughly two months ahead of the pace. That said, there is no correlation between a fast start to the season and the degree of activity of the rest of the season.”
Debby was also the first tropical storm of the season to enter the Gulf of Mexico.