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Tropical Storm Debby has been slowly creeping its way across Florida, heading northeast. The storm began in the Gulf of Mexico and was projected to go to Texas, Alabama, and Florida on different occasions. On the morning of June 25 the storm was about seventy-five miles south of the Panhandle city of Apalachicola moving at a speed of three miles per hour northeast.
The tropical storm, a step below a category one hurricane, maintained forty-five miles per hour winds and has threatened some parts of Florida with ten to twenty-five inches of rain. Many low-lying areas in Northern Florida are expected to flood and many residents have been warned to evacuate these areas.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management issued a statement saying, “Debby is currently stationary, and no significant motion is expected through the next day or so as a weak steering flow remains in the region…All of the Florida Panhandle near and west of the Suwannee River is in the three-day error cone.” Debby is expected to move between Destin and Tampa within the next three to five days.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management also reported on the effects of the hurricane. “Tropical storm force winds, heavy rainfall and isolated tornadoes are the main concerns today…rainfall amounts of five plus inches today and tonight may lead to continued flooding for many areas of the state. In addition, locally heavy rainfall of potentially up to ten to twenty inches through the next few days will continue to exacerbate flooding concerns of some areas.” The governor, Rick Scott, has declared a statewide emergency.
Most of the damage so far has been in the western regions of Florida. Some streets in Tampa are underwater and the Howard Franklin bridge that connects Tampa and St. Petersburg was closed due to high winds and water. St. George Island was hit the hardest losing electricity and having its bridge to the mainland closed. Thirty-five thousand homes and businesses were without power after the storm ravaged Florida the night of June 24. Several Florida counties were put on the tornado watch list including Pinellas and Orange (St. Petersburg and Orlando).
Twenty-three percent of oil and gas production has been suspended and the employees have been evacuated from sixty-one production platforms and thirteen drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
One person was killed by a tornado the tropical storm caused in Florida. The other casualty of this storm was a South Carolinian man who disappeared in rough seas on June 24 in Alabama.
Some Floridians see the tropical storm as nothing to worry about, after surviving the year of Charlie, Frances, Jeanne, and Ivan, this storm is incomparable. Patrick Sparks, twenty-six, a manager at Eddy Teach’s bar, stated, “the tourists cleared out. It’s not a good thing and hurts the economy during a week in peak season. It’s a tropical storm – it’s not even a category one. It’s a little rash to send everyone home.”
Hurricane season began June 1 and will last until November 30. So far Debby is the fourth named storm that has occurred this year.
Image Courtesy of NASA Goddard Photo and Video