By The Associated Press
Tropical Storm Debby drenched Florida with heavy rains, flooded low-lying neighborhoods and knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses as it lingered off the state’s coast Monday.
The governor declared a statewide emergency, and a tropical storm warning was in effect for most of Florida’s Gulf coast. At least one person was killed by a twister in Florida, and crews in Alabama searched for a man who disappeared in rough surf Sunday.
Florida officials estimated at least 35,000 homes and businesses were without power.
Residents in several counties near the crook of Florida’s elbow were urged to leave low-lying neighborhoods because of the threat of flooding. Shelters were opened in some areas.
FEMA’s regional office in Atlanta, Ga. has been closely monitoring the storm. Sunday afternoon, FEMA deployed a liaison officer to the Florida Emergency Operations Center to help maintain the flow of information from the state to FEMA and report back any critical needs to regional leadership.
“We urge all residents in the area to closely monitor this storm due to the uncertainty in the track and strength of the storm, and to listen to NOAA Weather Radio and their local news to get updates,” said Phil May, FEMA Regional Administrator.
The constant barrage of wind and rain triggered fears of the widespread flooding that occurred across the Florida Panhandle during Hurricane Dennis in 2005.
Debby’s center was essentially stationary about 50 miles south of Apalachicola. Debby’s top sustained winds were around 45 mph with little change in strength expected over the next day or so. The forecast map indicated the storm would crawl northeast, eventually coming ashore in Florida later this week.
The storm is moving slowly, allowing its clouds more time to unload rain. A public advisory said parts of northern Florida could get 10 to 15 inches of rain, with some areas getting as much as 25 inches.
According to AccuWeather.com Sr. Vice President Joseph P. Sobel, Ph.D., “Debby has been sheared in two with the mid-level circulation blown off the Atlantic coast, while the low-level circulation has been left behind over the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. If Debby reorganizes and pokes into the mid-levels of the atmosphere, it is likely to be influenced by upper-level steering winds once again.”
According to the Associated Press, a woman was found dead in a house in Venus that was destroyed in the storm. A child found in the same house was taken to the hospital.
In Orange Beach, Ala., fire and rescue workers searched for a South Carolina man who was vacationing with his family when he went under. His name and hometown were not immediately released.
AccuWeather.com reports there may be some good that comes from the storm system as rain from Debby is reaching some drought-stricken areas of the Southeast.
Debby has delivered over a foot of rain to some areas in Florida thus far. Hernando County Airport, located north of Tampa and southwest of Ocala, Fla., has received 12.16 inches of rain as of noon Monday from the storm.
Prior to Debby’s arrival, central and northern Florida drought issues ranged from abnormally dry to extreme drought.