Tropical Storm Debby Saturates Florida
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For days, heavy rain from Tropical Storm Debby have lashed Florida. High waves have pounded the coast, tornadoes have roared across the state. Some communities are flooded out. Meteorologists think Debby is weakening.
But as Scott Finn of member station WUSF reports the storm doesn't have to be strong to do a lot of damage.
SCOTT FINN, BYLINE: Some storms, like Hurricanes Charley and Andrew, hit you like a fist and they're gone. But there's another type of storm - slow, plodding and relentless - that's Debby.
DAVID FELTGEN: We hear: Oh, it's just a tropical storm.
FINN: David Feltgen hates to hear that. He's a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
FELTGEN: Just because you don't have the wind hazard from a tropical storm, such as Debby, doesn't mean you don't have the other three hazards. And we have all three of those going right now - storm surge...
FINN: Five feet above high tide in some areas.
FELTGEN: ...inland flooding...
FINN: More than two feet of rain expected in some parts of Florida.
FELTGEN: ...and tornadoes.
FINN: At least 20 tornadoes on Sunday, one ripped off the roof of a mobile home in central Florida killing a woman, as she clutched her three-year-old daughter in her arms. Debby is being blamed for one other death, a South Carolina man who went swimming in the high surf off Orange Beach, Alabama. So it may be a tropical storm, but Feltgen says people shouldn't ignore Debby.
FELTGEN: Well, the level of preparation they should have should be the same thing as a hurricane.
FINN: In the Tampa Bay area, the historic beach town of Pass-a-Grill was hit the hardest. A tornado damaged 20 roofs, spreading debris among the pastel-colored apartment buildings and beach bungalows.
TONY HOWE: I was sitting in this chair right here, so you can see how lucky I was.
FINN: Tony Howe shows off his apartment. His sliding glass door is gone and tiny shards of glass litter the floor.
HOWE: And then, all of a sudden, I heard this very loud noise like a freight train. And I was trying to get up from my chair, and all my windows blew out and the glass shattered all over my apartment and hit me. And I got lacerations on my body from the cuts from those glass blowing out.
FINN: Gusty winds shut down the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, a major connection over Tampa Bay. But water remains the biggest fear among residents here. On Sunday, flooding forced the evacuation of Mariners Cove Trailer Park, including Pamela Anders. This afternoon, she was sitting at the entrance to the mobile home park with her eight-year-old son, a lot of wet clothes and her cat.
PAMELA ANDERS: And it's probably about waist deep when we were leaving yesterday. There's fish swimming around there. There's turtles. There's shoes floating around - my son actually fell down, floating around in the water somewhere.
FINN: After sitting still for two days, the eye of Tropical Storm Debby is finally headed toward the Florida coast at the clip of a fast walk, about three miles per hour. The heavy rains are expected to continue from coastal Alabama, across parts of the Florida peninsula for days.
For NPR News, I'm Scott Finn in Tampa.
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