Debby has weakened again, turning into a post-tropical cyclone after drenching Florida for days.
As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Debby was about 180 miles east of St. Augustine. It was moving east at 13 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph with higher gusts.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami forecasted a turn toward the east-northeast and an increase in forward speed in the next few days.
As Debby was downgraded to a tropical depression late Tuesday, the State Emergency Response Team activated the Florida Emergency Information Line, where residents can get information about Debby from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m. The number is 1-800-342-3557.
In northern Florida and southern Georgia, Debby's rains, not the winds, caused more problems. Tropical Storm Debby made landfall Tuesday afternoon near Steinhatchee.
The widespread damage resulted not only from Debby's slow movement, but also from the storm's size -- tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 175 miles from its center, mainly to the southeast. On Monday, rain bands from Debby passed over Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Meanwhile, in north Florida, the Florida Highway Patrol closed portions of Interstate 10 due to flooding caused by flooding from rain brought on by Tropical Storm Debby.
Early Tuesday, FHP warned motorists to use extreme caution as they travel on areas of the east-west interstate that are not under water. Troopers reported several areas of flooding on both sides of I-10 between Interstate 75 and U.S. 90 in Baker County.
State authorities say that approximately 35,000 Floridians are without power due to Tropical Storm Debby. Bryan Koon, the state's emergency management chief, said on Monday at a news conference with Gov. Rick Scott that there were widespread scattered outages across the state.
Koon did not expect the number to go up significantly but he said the total number of those without power could fluctuate in the next few days. Scott declared a state of emergency as new models showed Tropical Storm Debby shifting toward Florida.
The South Florida Water Management District said Lake Kissimmee, western Collier County, the Everglades Water Conservation Areas and Everglades National Park have received between 2 and 7 inches of rain associated with the storm.
“South Florida’s flood control system was in storm-ready mode, and we were prepared to operate at full capacity for this storm,” said Tommy Strowd, SFWMD Director of Operations, Maintenance and Construction in a release. “The system continues to move water as designed to prevent flooding where possible, and we are prepared for additional rain.”
The National Hurricane Center reported that this is the first time since 1851 that four storms have formed before July.
Authorities say a woman was found dead inside a house in Highlands County that was destroyed as Tropical Storm Debby inundated some areas with rain.
Gloria Rybinski, emergency operations spokeswoman for Highland County, said the twisters destroyed four homes in the southern end of the county and damaged others. The woman was found dead in a home in Venus, located in the middle of the state roughly between Port St. Lucie and Sarasota, Rybinski said.
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