PENSACOLA, Florida — (DMN/CNN) – An erratic Tropical Storm Debby stalled just off the Florida Panhandle on Monday evening, dumping sheets of rain on Florida’s Big Bend marshes and towns far down the peninsula. Debby was already bringing up to 5 inches of rain per hour on parts of the Panhandle, and the National Hurricane Center said northern Florida could see another 6 to 12 inches in the next two days. Forecasters declared a flash flood emergency for parts of Franklin, Liberty and Wakulla counties near Tallahassee until late Monday, and Debby drove rising tides across neighborhood streets as far south as the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
At 8 p.m. ET, Debby was centered 30 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola and was not moving. It had top winds of 45 mph. Tropical storm-force winds of 39-plus mph extended more than 230 miles from the center. Tropical storm warnings were posted from the Panhandle resort of Destin to Englewood, about 50 miles south of Tampa. Debby already has been blamed for one death in Venus, Florida, about 100 miles southeast of Tampa, when a woman died while trying to shelter her 3-year-old daughter during a tornado. That Sunday afternoon twister flung 32-year-old Heather Town about 200 feet into the surrounding woods when it hit her home, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
Neighbors found her still cradling her 3-year-old daughter, who was being treated at a Tampa hospital, “She never let go of her little one even in death,” Highland County Sheriff Susan Benton said in a statement issued Monday afternoon. Another twister hit St. Pete Beach on Sunday night. “The winds started picking up,” said Laura Miller, who took shelter in a space between her refrigerator and a kitchen pantry as it passed. “We heard the proverbial noise — the train — the transformer blew, the windows started busting out. It was just very chaotic, all the glass flying, the debris flying into the house. It was pretty intense.”
The Sunshine Skyway bridge, which stretches over Tampa Bay and connects Bradenton with St. Petersburg, was closed Sunday because of high winds and remained closed Monday, Pinellas County officials said. CNN iReporter Magalie Caragiorgio said Monday she has been stuck in her home in New Port Richey, near St. Petersburg, since Sunday because of flooding and hasn’t been able to get to her job as a nurse. “It’s unnerving because you can’t do anything,” she said. “I guess I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t expecting to be flooded out like this.” Citing the threat of heavy rainfall and potential tornadoes, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday “so we can coordinate the use of all state resources to make sure we can respond promptly if anything happens.”
Revised forecasts showed Debby remaining a tropical storm until it makes landfall early Thursday near Apalachee Bay, in the bend of the state where the Florida Panhandle ends. The storm is then expected to cross the state and head into the Atlantic Ocean south of Jacksonville as a tropical depression on Saturday. Debby has followed an uncertain path since forming over the weekend. Storm warnings once stretched as far west as Morgan City, Louisiana, before shifting eastward on Sunday afternoon and Monday. That raised concerns for crews working on 596 manned oil and gas production platforms throughout the Gulf, run by various companies. Shell, BP and ExxonMobil began evacuating workers from offshore rigs on Sunday, but BP and Shell had made plans to return to those platforms as Debby turned toward Florida.
BULLETIN TROPICAL STORM DEBBY INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY NUMBER 10A NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL042012 700 PM CDT MON JUN 25 2012 ...INLAND AND COASTAL FLOOD THREAT TO CONTINUE FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS ACROSS PORTIONS OF FLORIDA PANHANDLE AND NORTH FLORIDA... SUMMARY OF 700 PM CDT...0000 UTC...INFORMATION ---------------------------------------------- LOCATION...29.1N 85.2W ABOUT 30 MI...45 KM SSW OF APALACHICOLA FLORIDA MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...45 MPH...75 KM/H PRESENT MOVEMENT...STATIONARY MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...992 MB...29.29 INCHES WATCHES AND WARNINGS -------------------- CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY... NONE. SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT... A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR... * THE FLORIDA GULF COAST FROM DESTIN TO ENGLEWOOD FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA IN THE UNITED STATES...INCLUDING POSSIBLE INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECAST OFFICE. DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK ------------------------------ DEBBY IS A LARGE TROPICAL CYCLONE...WITH STRONG WINDS AND HEAVY RAINS OCCURRING AT LARGE DISTANCES FROM THE CENTER. AT AT 700 PM CDT...0000 UTC...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL STORM DEBBY WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 29.1 NORTH...LONGITUDE 85.2 WEST. DEBBY HAS BEEN NEARLY STATIONARY DURING THE PAST FEW HOURS. SOME SLOW AND POSSIBLE ERRATIC MOTION TOWARD THE NORTHEAST OR EAST-NORTHEAST IS EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 45 MPH...75 KM/H...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. LITTLE CHANGE IN STRENGTH IS FORECAST DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS. TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 230 MILES...370 KM MAINLY TO THE SOUTHEAST OF THE CENTER. HOWEVER...DOPPLER RADAR AND SURFACE OBSERVATIONS IN THE WESTERN BIG BEND AREA OF FLORIDA INDICATE WIND GUSTS GREATER THAN 60 MPH...115 KM/H...ARE LIKELY OCCURRING OVER THE COASTAL AREAS FROM APALACHICOLA NORTHEASTWARD TO SHELL POINT. THE ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 992 MB...29.29 INCHES BASED ON REPORTS FROM A NEARBY NOAA COASTAL MARINE STATION. HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND ---------------------- WIND...TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS WILL CONTINUE OVER PORTIONS OF THE FLORIDA GULF COAST TONIGHT AND TUESDAY. STORM SURGE...ALTHOUGH DEBBY HAS WEAKENED SOME TODAY...COASTAL FLOODING IS NOT YET DIMINISHING. THE COMBINATION OF A STORM SURGE AND THE TIDE WILL CAUSE NORMALLY DRY AREAS NEAR THE COAST TO BE FLOODED BY RISING WATERS. THE WATER COULD REACH THE FOLLOWING DEPTHS ABOVE GROUND AT THE TIME OF THE NEXT HIGH TIDE THIS EVENING... APALACHEE BAY TO WACCASASSA BAY...3 TO 5 FT FLORIDA WEST COAST SOUTH OF WACCASASSA BAY...1 TO 3 FT THE DEEPEST WATER WILL OCCUR ALONG THE IMMEDIATE COAST IN AREAS OF ONSHORE FLOW. SURGE-RELATED FLOODING DEPENDS ON THE RELATIVE TIMING OF THE SURGE AND THE TIDAL CYCLE...AND CAN VARY GREATLY OVER SHORT DISTANCES. FOR INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA...PLEASE SEE PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OFFICE. RAINFALL...DEBBY IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE THE FOLLOWING ADDITIONAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS...6 TO 12 INCHES ACROSS NORTHERN FLORIDA...4 TO 8 INCHES ACROSS CENTRAL FLORIDA AND EXTREME SOUTHEASTERN GEORGIA...AND 3 TO 5 INCHES IN SOUTH FLORIDA AND EXTREME SOUTHEASTERN SOUTH CAROLINA. ISOLATED STORM TOTAL AMOUNTS OF 25 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE IN NORTH FLORIDA. TORNADOES...A FEW TORNADOES ARE POSSIBLE TODAY ACROSS THE EASTERN FLORIDA PANHANDLE...THE FLORIDA PENINSULA...AND SOUTHERN GEORGIA. CBS, The National Hurricane Center and CBS News contributed to this report. CNN's Dave Hennen, Sarah Dillingham, Meridith Edwards, Kim Segal and Ashley Hayes contributed to this report.