The large tropical storm churning in the Gulf of Mexico has stalled out but it has people on high alert. As of 10pm Sunday, the storm named Debby was stationary at about 110 miles southwest of Apalachicola, FL with sustained wind speeds in excess of of 60 mph.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami is predicting that Debby will meander northward for several days before making landfall on Florida’s Panhandle late Wednesday or early Thursday If that does happen, tremendous flooding rains, coasting flooding, beach erosion and tornadoes could wreak havoc for Florida as well as for Georgia and Alabama later this week.
The tropical storm’s slow moving outer bands have been lashing Florida with heavy torrential rains and have kicked up rough surf off Alabama, leading to one death. The storm is already causing trouble with the 600 or so oil and gas production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Thus far, workers have been evacuated from at least 60 platforms in the gulf. This is the first time four tropical storms have been recorded before the first of July during the Atlantic hurricane season so already Debby is going down in the history books before even making landfall.
Debby has prompted the National Weather Service to issue coastal flood warnings for Alabama and Florida as the storm’s outer bands were dumping very heavy rainfall and kicking up rough surf along the coasts of those two states. In addition to dumping very heavy downpours of rain and packing high winds, Debby also has spawned several isolated tornadoes – causing damage to homes and knocking down powerlines. People living in several Florida counties near the crook of Florida’s elbow were told to leave low-lying areas because of the threat of flooding.
The National Hurricane Center said Sunday that Debby could become a hurricane over the next few days. It also warned that portions of northern Florida could get up to 15 inches of rain with some areas getting up to as much as 25 inches. Because Debby is moving slowly, its clouds have more time to dump rain.
Relentless rainfall from the tropical storm is expected to continue pounding the northern portion of Florida this week. Roadways along many Florida coastal communities are already flooded and many rivers are starting to overflow their banks. Some communities could pick up six to eight months’ worth of rain between now and Friday. If that happens, flooding could be widespread, very severe and life-threatening.
While the storm is bad news for residents, it will keep companies offering restoration services, like the Florida disaster cleanup pros busy with flood cleanup and dryout of buildings and homes.