Tropical Storm “Debby” has drenched rain Monday over parts of Northern Florida as it hung stationary over the Gulf of Mexico and threatens to incur heavy rains upon low-lying neighborhoods and residences.
Tropical storm warnings are in effect along the Florida Panhandle as the storm is currently offshore. Even though the storm’s center is far from land, it has engulfed parts of Florida with heavy downpours and has even spawned isolated tornadoes that have killed one person.
In Alabama, crews have planned to continue to search for a South Carolina man who’s disappeared in rough surf Sunday afternoon. The man, whose name and hometown has not been immediately released to the general public, was vacationing with his family when he had gone underwater around 1:45PM on Sunday, according to Melvin Shepherd whose director of beach safety for Orange Beach, Alabama.
The storm has also prompted the closing of the only bridge to St. George Island, which is a popular vacation destination in the state of Florida.
Residents of several counties near the vicinity of Florida’s elbow were urged to leave low-lying neighborhoods due to the threat of flooding. High winds have forced the closure of an interstate bridge that connects Tampa Bay and links St. Petersburg, Florida with areas to the southeast of the state. At a number of locations, homes and businesses have been damaged by high winds which authorities believe were from the tornadoes.
The authorities at Tampa Bay were asking tourists and residents to veer away from flooded streets. Certain streets were still under water as of early Monday, while others have been blocked with debris.
The redundant barrage of wind and rain has triggered fears of the widespread flooding that had occurred across the Florida Panhandle during Hurricane Denis in 2005. Officials on Monday have said that the main bridge to St. George Island is closed as the storm looms. Power has already been out on the island and authorities have said it could be out for a long period of time.
As of 8AM, EDT Monday, Debby’s center had been stationary about 90 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida. Debby’s top sustaining winds were about 50 mph with little variability in strength expected over the next day or so. The forecast map has indicated that the storm could move forward through this week, eventually coming inland over the Panhandle. It is worth noting however, that a storm’s path is difficult to gauge days in advance.
Underscoring the unpredictable nature of tropical storms, forecasters and meteorologists discontinued tropical storm warnings Sunday afternoon for the state of Louisiana after forecast models indicated that Debby wasn’t likely to turn west. At a certain point, forecasters and meteorologists had predicted that the storm would come ashore in Louisiana.
A major concern will be flooding from heavy downpours. Debby is moving slowly, allowing clouds to discharge more rain the longer it takes. A public advisory has said that parts of northern Florida could get up to 15 inches of rain, with some areas cautioned that they may receive as much as 25 inches of rain.
The Highlands County Sherriff’s office has said in a news release that several tornadoes have moved into the area southeast of Tampa and has damaged homes.
The Sherriff’s office spokeswoman Nell Hays has said that a woman was found dead at a house in Venus, Florida that was destroyed in the storm. A child who had been found at the same house was taken to the hospital. As of yet, there has been no further information about the child’s condition or either person’s age.
Authorities have urged residents to leave the low-lying neighborhoods and residences in Franklin, Taylor and Wakulla counties because of the flooding. Shelters are open in the area.
Wind has tore off the roof of a marina at St. Pete Beach and a pier was reportedly heavily damaged, said Tom Iovino, a Pinellas County government spokesman. He however had said that no injuries had been reported.
As of Sunday, 23% of oil and gas production in the region has been suspended, according to an official affiliated with a government-sponsored hurricane response team. Employees have been evacuated from 13 drilling rigs and about 61 production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Debby wasn’t expected to result in higher prices for oil and gas.
“It’s largely a non-event for oil,” said Tom Kloza, who’s a chief oil analyst the Oil Price Information Service.