POSTED: 2:34 p.m. HST, Jun 26, 2012
ST. GEORGE ISLAND, Fla. >> Debby, the guest that wouldn’t leave, is ruining things for a lot of other visitors even as it weakens to a tropical depression.
The National Hurricane Center said early this evening that the storm had been downgraded to a tropical depression with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph as it moved across Florida. But the storm system that lingered in the Gulf of Mexico for days before making landfall has still been making its presence felt.
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, and one of its water parks closed because of the soggy, windy weather. Also, Sea World closed early on Monday.
Debby finally blew ashore this afternoon near Steinhatchee in the Big Bend area, the crook of Florida’s elbow. It had sustained winds near 40 mph, barely a tropical storm.
By this evening, Debby was 25 miles north of Cedar Key and was moving east-northeast at 6 mph. Forecasters said the center of Debby should cross the northern Florida peninsula during the next 24 hours and head into the Atlantic on Wednesday afternoon. They said tropical storm-force winds were possible over parts of the Gulf coast tonight.
Several areas in northern Florida have received more than 10 inches of rain, and forecasters said southeastern Georgia could expect the same. Wakulla, an area in northwestern Florida known for camping and canoeing, had gotten more than 26 inches as of Tuesday.
A woman was killed in a tornado spun off from the storm, and a man disappeared in the rough surf over the weekend in Alabama. The storm has knocked out power to 250,000 homes and business since it began over the weekend, but electricity had been restored to all but about 35,000 customers. Debby has caused mostly scattered flooding, but forecasters warned it could get worse.
President Barack Obama called Florida Gov. Rick Scott and promised the state will have “no unmet needs” as it deals with the flooding, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.