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Debby Is Really Dumping On Florida

Convenience store employee Lindsey Bennight watched floodwaters surround the store where she works in Crawfordville, Fla., on Monday (June 25, 2012).
Dave Martin

Debby is doing a number on folks along the Gulf Coast from Alabama to northern Florida.

The tropical storm, which has been lashing the region since the weekend, could dump another 2 feet of rain by the end of the week, forecasters warn. Residents are being warned to also watch out for tornadoes, flash floods and sinkholes.

According to the National Weather Service, Debby "continues to move very slowly off to the east across the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. This slow movement of the system will lead to a long duration of heavy rain and coastal flood impacts for areas of Apalachee Bay. Significant flooding is possible in portions of the Florida Big Bend ... Excessive rainfall combined with storm surge is creating historic flooding in some areas along the coast."

Debby is also "spawning the threat of rapid-forming tornadoes," the Orlando Sentinel adds.

There's a state of emergency across Florida, as our colleagues at WUWF report.

At Wunderground.com, Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog notes that "Debby's formation on June 23 comes a full two months ahead of the usual formation date of the season's fourth storm in the Atlantic, August 23." And it adds that:

"We should expect to see more early-season Atlantic tropical storms as a consequence of global warming, since cool ocean temperatures are a key impediment to formation of such storms. However, this assumes that factors such as wind shear and atmospheric stability won't grow more hostile for tropical cyclone formation during the early part of hurricane season, and this is uncertain.

"If we do end up seeing a substantial increase in early-season tropical storms as a consequence of global warming, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Early-season tropical storms are often more boon than bane, bringing much-needed drought-busting rains, like Tropical Storm Beryl did for North Florida last month. With drought frequency and intensity predicted to increase for much of the Gulf Coastal states in coming decades, an increase in rainfall from early-season tropical storms may do more good than the damages inflicted by the high winds and flooding these storms may bring."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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