Debby weakens, but remains flood threat for Florida (+video)
Debby is now a tropical depression, but that news is not helping the threat from both flooding and tornadoes the storm system could still spawn.
St. George Island, Florida
Debby posed a flooding and tornado threat as it headed toward the Atlantic on Wednesday, forecasters warned, even if it didn't pack the same punch.Skip to next paragraph
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The National Hurricane Center downgraded Debby from a tropical storm to a tropical depression Tuesday night as it slogged across northern Florida toward the Atlantic coast. Debby's maximum sustained winds early Wednesday were near 35 mph.
But forecasters said a combination of storm surge and tide could bring flooding to coastal areas that have already been drenched by the storm that sat virtually motionless in the Gulf of Mexico for several days.
There was already major flooding at Black Creek, as well as several other rivers in the Jacksonville region, National Weather Service meteorologist Angie Enyedi said. She said tornadoes could form to the east and the southeast of the storm.
The hurricane center said early Wednesday that Debby was 25 miles southeast of St. Augustine, Fla., and moving east-northeast at about 10 mph. The storm was expected to head out to sea later in the day.
But many in Debby's path were still recovering from flooding that damaged homes, washed out roads, opened up sinkholes and closed a section of Interstate 10 — the state's main east-west highway.
Water was up to the roofs at some homes in low lying areas of Live Oak on Wednesday. Several feet of water remained around businesses in downtown near the courthouse and many roads were impassable.
"The water came in so fast last night," said Live Oak resident Jorge Torres. "We were lucky to get out what we could. My shed is underwater."
Vacationers were wearing ponchos instead of swimsuits at the peak of the summer season because of the tropical storm, which has drenched Florida for at least four days straight like a giant shower head set up over the state's Gulf Coast. Debby has dumped as much as 26 inches of rain in some spots.
Disney World wasn't as crowded as usual Tuesday, and one of its water parks closed because of the soggy, windy weather.
Along the Florida Panhandle, the parking lot at the 100-room Buccaneer Inn was empty because of a power outage ahead of the usually big pre-July Fourth weekend.
"We've had bad luck on this island," said the inn's vice president, JoAnn Shiver. "We've had Dennis. We've had Katrina. We had the oil spill."
In a state where the biggest attractions are the sand and the sun, Debby forced many to make other plans.
Douglas and Carolyn Green of Nashville, Tenn., were supposed to spend a week on St. George Island with three generations of family, but arrived to find the electricity was out and the bridge closed to non-residents for fear of looters. They spent Monday night in nearby Apalachicola, and then all nine relatives headed to Fort Walton Beach.