Tropical Storm Debby sent high winds and heavy rainfall throughout parts of northern Florida on Monday. The center of the storm has so far remained offshore, in the Gulf of Mexico. But officials fear that Debby’s slow movement and constant downpours could result in widespread flooding along the Florida Panhandle.
Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins in June and ends in November. Many of the storms that form during this time hover over the ocean. But in some cases, the storms reach land and can develop into powerful hurricanes.
Debby is currently being classified as a tropical storm. As of 11:00 a.m. on Monday, the storm’s center was about 75 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida. Winds were up to 50 miles per hour at one point, and officials believe that they will continue to gain strength. Weather forecasters say that the storm could reach land in the next few days.
The path of a tropical storm is unpredictable. It is difficult to tell where a storm like Debby could be headed. At one point, forecasters thought the tropical storm would blow ashore in Louisiana. But a warning for the area was canceled after it was shown that Debby wasn’t likely to move west. “There are always going to be errors in making predictions,” explains Chris Landsea, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center. “There is never going to be a perfect forecast.”
As of now, the storm looks to be slowly moving northeast at just three miles per hour. This will allow storm clouds more time to unload rain. According to a public advisory, northern Florida could see 10 to 15 inches of rain. Some locations could see up to 25 inches of rain.
The storm has already caused some destruction. In parts of Florida, the storm produced several tornadoes that damaged homes and businesses. At least one woman died after a twister wrecked her home.
In Orange Beach, Alabama, a visiting South Carolina man disappeared Sunday after getting swept away in rough waves caused by the storm. Crews are continuing to search for the man, who had been vacationing with his family.
Residents in low-lying neighborhoods are being advised to leave their homes due to the threat of flooding. The interstate bridge connecting Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg and the main bridge to St. George Island have both been closed due to powerful winds. Electricity on St. George, a popular vacation spot, is already out. Additionally, employees from 13 oil-drilling rigs and 61 production platforms in the region have been evacuated. People across the state are being urged to take the necessary precautions.