Debby Changes From Wind to Water Hazard: Modelers

Tropical Storm Debby may become a major flood event for parts of Florida as the system moves onshore and stalls, according to catastrophe modelers following the event Monday.

While Debby continues to exert sustained tropical force winds of approximately 60 miles per hour, rainfall accumulations of 10 to 15 inches are forecast over the Panhandle and the northern part of Florida — with isolated maximum amounts of 25 inches possible – according to catastrophe modeling firm Risk Management Solutions (RMS).

“The main risks associated with Debby are tropical storm strength winds that will continue to affect portions of the northeast Gulf Coast over the next few days, coastal flooding related to storm surge, flooding as a result of heavy rainfall, and the risk of a few tornadoes across the eastern Florida Panhandle,” said Neena Saith, director of catastrophe response at RMS in a statement.

“Due to its slow forward motion, the storm could pose a serious flooding threat,” said Dr. Tim Doggett, principal scientist at AIR Worldwide in a statement. “Debby’s rainfall footprint currently extends from Pensacola, Florida north to near Macon, Georgia, and south and east to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Some Florida weather stations have recorded between two to six inches of rain as of today, Monday, June 24, due to the system. Thunderstorm activity has also been reported and there have already been nine tornado reports in southern Florida as of today; tornado watches have been posted for much of western Florida.”

RMS adds that Debby is a large system with tropical storm force winds extending outward up to 200 miles, but “is almost stationary” with rainfall already hitting coastal Florida to the northeast of Tallahassee. The forecast track models have Debby making landfall in Florida between 48 hours to 96 hours.

After landfall Tropical Storm Debby is expected to weaken, reaching tropical depression strength continuing heavy rainfall.

“Wind damage in Tropical Storm Debby’s path at landfall is not expected to be severe if current forecasts hold,” said AIR’s Doggett. “Damage to non-structural elements such as signage and awnings may occur, while unprotected windows could be broken as a result of wind-borne debris. Building code in Florida is both strict and strictly enforced.”

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