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Tropical Storm Debby poised to lash the Gulf Coast

June 24, 2012|By Matt Pearce
  • A surfer rides a wave off Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. A storm system will bring more heavy showers and thunderstorms to southern Florida and the Gulf Coast.
A surfer rides a wave off Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. A storm… (Nick Tomecek / Northwest…)

A tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico is threatening the southern coast from Louisiana to Florida as forecasters suspect the storm's 60 mph winds may grow slightly stronger over the next two days.

The storm, named Debby, could bring five to 10 inches of rain from southeast Louisiana to the central west coast of Florida, according to the National Weather Service. That brings a threat of flash floods inland to go along with the 1- to 3-foot storm surges Debby is expected to bring to the coast, except in Louisiana, where the surges could grow as great as 5 feet.

PHOTOS: Tropical Storm Debby wreaks havoc

“The combination of a storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters,” the weather service cautioned in a Sunday morning briefing.

As of Sunday morning, a tropical storm warning — meaning that tropical-storm conditions are expected in an area within 36 hours — stretched from the northwest coast of Florida to the Suwannee River and along the coast of Louisiana from the mouth of the Pearl River westward until Morgan City. The tropical storm warning currently does not include New Orleans.

Debby’s tropical-storm-force winds extend 200 miles from its center, but “little motion” is expected from the storm itself over Sunday before it turns west and begins “meandering” over the northern Gulf of Mexico, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service also called for isolated tornadoes spawned by the storm over west-central and the southwestern stretches of the Florida peninsula Sunday. A Saturday tornado in Collier County in southwestern Florida didn’t lead to any reported injuries.

The Associated Press reported that thousands of people were on the beach of Pensacola Beach, Fla., on Sunday morning, with many taking pictures of huge waves hitting a nearby pier.

Nine oil production platforms and one drilling rig have been evacuated, AP reported, with Debby suspending 8% of the region’s oil and gas production. Gas prices were not expected to be affected unless more platforms were closed.

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