Debby Unleashes Floods On Fla. Panhandle

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Before Tropical Storm Debby was downgraded to a tropical depression, it had dumped about two feet of rain on parts of the Florida Panhandle — causing widespread flooding. On Tuesday, Governor Rick Scott visited coastal Wakulla County.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

Debby has now weakened from a tropical storm to a tropical depression, but it's still bringing flash floods and the threat of tornadoes to Florida cities, including Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. Debby first formed in the Gulf of Mexico last weekend. Jessica Palombo of Florida Public Radio has more.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAIN)

JESSICA PALOMBO, BYLINE: Days of steady rain have left standing water over interstate highways here in the Florida Panhandle.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Wakulla County Sheriffs' office, how can I help you?

PALOMBO: On Tuesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott visited coastal Wakulla County, which has received more than two feet of rain this week.

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT: We've had a lot of flooding, as you know, in our rivers here, and there's been the surge close to the gulf, so we've had a lot of issues.

PALOMBO: One waterlogged road goes through a town called Panacea, where Susan Pafford waits tables at Coastal Restaurant. On Monday night, when she got done with her shift, the road home had disappeared beneath a quick-moving current of water. But she just kept pushing through it.

SUSAN PAFFORD: Yes ma'am, so we go really, really slow and keep going, yeah, keep going right through the middle of it. I drive a Ford F-150 pickup truck, thank goodness.

PALOMBO: But state meteorologist Michelle Palmer insists flooded roadways can kill drivers.

MICHELLE PALMER: We encourage everyone, if you see a flooded roadway to turn around. And we know that saying, Turn around, don't drown, that's fact. I mean, you don't know if that roadway underneath the flooded water is washed out.

PALOMBO: Most of the rain has moved out of the Panhandle and forecasters project Debby will hang around on land at least until tomorrow, when she's expected to make her exit into the Atlantic Ocean near Daytona Beach. But Florida Emergency Management director Bryan Koon says Debby will continue being a threat even after she leaves the state.

BRYAN KOON: The smaller rivers are going to be cresting over the next couple of days. Those are going to be flowing into the larger rivers, so we're going to have some river flooding issues for the next week or two.

PALOMBO: With rain saturating the ground, sinkholes have popped up across the state, some dangerously close to houses. And many bridges and roadways remain closed as residents watch river levels rise.

For NPR News, I'm Jessica Palombo in Tallahassee.

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