Posted: Jun 27, 2012 11:04 AM by AP
ST. GEORGE ISLAND, Fla. (AP) - Debby dumped more than 2 feet of rain on Florida, inundated many homes and washed out roads before moving off the Atlantic coast Wednesday.
The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression Tuesday as it slogged across northern Florida, leaving some areas in several feet of water. Debby knocked out power to thousands of people and ruined vacations for some as it lingered in the Gulf for several days before washing ashore.
Along the Panhandle, some people were using boats to get back into their homes to remove valuables. Wakulla County Commission Chairman Alan Brock said residents can't remember flooding ever being this bad.
"It's not just people on the river, it's neighborhoods, it's places that have never been flooded," Brock said. "It's pretty heartbreaking. It's people who have built on hills and never expected water and because of that don't have flood insurance and now their homes are destroyed."
Debby's maximum sustained winds were near 35 mph and the storm was headed out to the open Atlantic. Debby was about 90 miles east of St. Augustine about midday Wednesday.
Many in Debby's path were still recovering. Water was up to the roofs at some homes in low-lying areas of Live Oak. Several feet of water remained around businesses in downtown near the courthouse and many roads were impassable.
"The water came in so fast last night," said Live Oak resident Jorge Torres. "We were lucky to get out what we could. My shed is underwater."
For days, vacationers wore ponchos instead of swimsuits during the peak of the summer season. Disney World wasn't as crowded as usual Tuesday, and one of its water parks closed because of the soggy, windy weather.
Along the Florida Panhandle, the parking lot at the 100-room Buccaneer Inn was empty because of a power outage ahead of the usually big pre-July Fourth weekend.
"We've had bad luck on this island," said the inn's vice president, JoAnn Shiver. "We've had Dennis. We've had Katrina. We had the oil spill."
In a state where the biggest attractions are the sand and the sun, Debby forced many to make other plans.
Douglas and Carolyn Green of Nashville, Tenn., were supposed to spend a week on St. George Island with three generations of family, but arrived to find the electricity was out and the bridge closed to non-residents for fear of looters. They spent Monday night in nearby Apalachicola, and then all nine relatives headed to Fort Walton Beach.
"We never saw the island," said Douglas Green. "We're moving on. Plan B, I guess you'd call it."
Debby finally blew ashore Tuesday afternoon near Steinhatchee in the Big Bend area, the crook of Florida's elbow. At that point, it had sustained winds near 40 mph - barely a tropical storm - hours before it was downgraded.
Several areas in northern Florida received more than 10 inches of rain.
A woman was killed in a tornado spun off from the storm Sunday, and a man disappeared in the rough surf over the weekend in Alabama.
Portions of Interstate 10 in Lake City, Fla., remained closed early Wednesday due to flooding. The Florida Highway Patrol said two sections of the interstate were still under water. Both sections were near the area where the highway intersects with Interstate 75.