Tropical storm Debby, which formed Saturday afternoon in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, is giving forecasters fits about its future course as it drifts northeast at 6 mph and drenches the west coast of Florida. Situated 140 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, the storm’s maximum sustained winds are 60 mph.
Some modest strengthening is possible over the next 48 hours, and Debby could become a minimal hurricane. But torrential rain, rather than wind, is likely to be Debby’s biggest hazard. Already, 2-4” of rain has fallen along parts of Florida’s west coast and a lot more may be on the way - although it’s not exactly clear where Debby is headed.
Computer models continue to be split on whether the storm will continue on a northeast track towards the Florida panhandle, or take a sharp turn west and threaten the central Gulf coast - anywhere from coastal Mississippi to east Texas, including the New Orleans area early this week.
The National Hurricane Center has essentially thrown up its hands and admitted it just doesn’t know where Debby is headed. It is playing a wait and see game, urging all Gulf coast residents to closely monitor forecasts.
“We must be ready to make a change of the forecast track at any time,” it said in its 11 a.m. ET discussion.
Regardless of its course over the next several days and whether it turns west, the storm is having meaningful impacts on the eastern Gulf of Mexico right now and conditions will deterioriate as the storm draws closer to land tonight. Tropical storm warnings extend from Suwannee River Florida to Morgan City Louisiana.
Heavy rain bands are lashing much of Florida’s west coast and torrential rain of 5-10” is possible from the central west coast of Florida to southeast Louisiana(although these kinds of heavy rains west of Florida are contingent upon the storm turning west, which is not guaranteed to happen).
By Jason Samenow at the Washington Post 12:37 PM ET, 06/24/2012