Video: Debby soaks northern Florida

  1. Closed captioning of: Debby soaks northern Florida

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    >>> good evening. and tonight we are following the wrath of nature, and the elements in two with separate areas of this country. water flooding from a relentless storm in florida , and fire out west. first off, 19 million americans are feeling the effects of a massive and slow churning storm in florida , relentless rains have brought torrents on shore. the famous sky way bridge across tampa bay has been closed since 4:00 p.m . on sunday. it's never been closed that long, not even during a hurricane. and i-10 across florida is closed both ways because of a sink hole. entire towns and communities are under water. it's where we begin our coverage tonight with with weather channel meteorologist jim cantore in live oak , florida just west of jacksonville. jim, good evening.

    >> reporter: this is the second tropical storm of the month for florida . a month that started out in drought in many areas, but after 30 inches of rain in less than 24 hours , cities like live oak just can't handle all this water. debby swept into northern florida today swelling rivers over their banks and swallowing homes. in the past 72 hours more than two feet of rain has fallen leaving parts of the the state soaked.

    >> i've never seen it this high, not even with a hurricane, a real hurricane.

    >> reporter: so much rain has fallen that the city of live oak , miles away from the nearest river is 0% under water. as deep as four feet in some places. 60 people have been forced to flee their homes so far.

    >> we're doing all we can, the water's rising, retention ponds are full, ground is saturated and we're trying to do everything we can to keep people safe.

    >> reporter: tim hopes sandbags will be enough to save his business.

    >> water's still rising , yeah. but you have to try. we can't just sit back and let it keep coming in, we have to keep trying.

    >> reporter: the massive slow moving storm stretches 205 miles from its center. in alabama, authorities are searching for a man who disappeared in the rough surf. the entire state of florida remains under a state of emergency . tens of thousands are still without power and rising water has closed portions of i-10. west of jacksonville, the river has risen 20 feet in the past 24 hours .

    >> what we're concerned about now is making sure the residents are taken care of. we had over 7 inches of rain through the evening and overnight.

    >> reporter: in tampa, high winds closed the bay bridge . today it looked more like an actual bay. and guys, it's fresh water flooding we've seen in through here. a lot of these businesses saved by sandbags as the rain begins to taper off. now we're talking about rivers. rivers that have to rise to major flood stage . four of them and counting across the state of florida tonight.

    >> that will be on a time delay . jim cantore in live oak , florida , jim. thanks

updated 6/26/2012 3:25:54 PM ET 2012-06-26T19:25:54

River flooding form Tropical Depression Debby -- downgraded from a tropical storm late Tuesday -- forced up to 20,000 people out of their homes in one Florida county alone, while another area had already seen more than 26 inches of rain, topping the official forecast calling for up to 25 inches in a few areas by the time Debby moves out.

In Pasco County near Tampa Bay, a mandatory evacuation was ordered between the Anclote and Pithlachascotee rivers, Reuters reported. The Anclote rose from 9 feet before Debby's approach to more than 27 feet on Tuesday, flooding areas with water head-high in places.

Boats were used to reach stranded residents, and 106 homes had been damaged.

Wakulla County, meanwhile, has seen more than 26 inches of rain, said in a Twitter alert Tuesday morning. Authorities there advised people to stay in their homes due to washed out and flooded roads.

Flash flood warnings were issued for parts of northern Florida and southern Georgia as Debby moved eastward. By midday, Debby picked up speed to 6 mph and winds had dropped to 40 mph, but that didn't stop the rain.

Image: Flooded home
Brian Blanco  /  Reuters
Gregory Nauykas and Madison Montgomery return to their flooded home in Pasco County's New Port Richey to gather belongings after earlier evacuating.

Parts of Interstate 10 in north Florida were closed due to flooding on a 50-mile stretch between Jacksonville and Tallahassee. The Florida Highway Patrol warned motorists to use extreme caution on other parts of the highway.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted, many having to leave flooded homes in Florida's Panhandle on Monday and others losing power or having property hit by twisters.

In Tampa Bay, a mother manatee was found dead in the water Tuesday off Bayshore Boulevard. Her two calves, which were still alive and later rescued, washed ashore along the flooded road.

Earlier in the day, tropical-storm warnings were in effect for 450 miles of coastline -- from the Panhandle's Mexico Beach to Englewood, south of Sarasota.

Debby made landfall near Steinhatchee on Tuesday afternoon, earlier than expected. Despite the downgrade to a tropical depression, Debby was still dumping rain and could return as a tropical storm when it exits Florida's Atlantic coast.

On Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a statewide emergency as five inches of rain in the course of an hour fell on some areas.

President Barack Obama called Scott on Tuesday and the federal government stands "ready to provide additional assistance if necessary," the White House said.

St. Marks, Fla., saw 21 inches in a two-day period while other areas got around 20 inches, noted.

Image: A truck leaves a wake as it drives by the St. Marks River Cantina
Phil Sears  /  Reuters
The owner of the St. Marks River Cantina in St. Marks, Fla., made a sign to try to keep drivers from further flooding his business.

Parts of Live Oak, Fla., were evacuated Tuesday due to flooding, it added.

Some areas of northern Florida and southeast Georgia could see up to 15 inches of rain Tuesday through Thursday, stated.

The National Hurricane Center predicted parts of northern Florida could see 25 inches of rain by the time Debby crosses Florida and exits into the Atlantic. noted that 2012 broke the record for the most named storms so early in the Atlantic season. Debby makes four so far, "leapfrogging Dennis from July 5, 2005.

Image: Truck in sinkhole
Alan Youngblood  /  The Ocala Star-Banner via AP
This sinkhole opened up in Salt Springs, Fla., on Monday due to the deluge.

"In an average year, the fourth named storm would have occurred by August 23," it added. "In terms of named storm counts, we're roughly two months ahead of the pace. That said, there is no correlation between a fast start to the season and the degree of activity of the rest of the season."

Debby was also the first tropical storm of the season to enter the Gulf of Mexico.

Debby earlier left tens of thousands of people without power and forced the closure of key highways and bridges in the Tampa Bay area.

Debby has also spawned some 20 twisters, including one on Sunday that killed a woman, injured her daughter and tore through homes in central Florida's rural Highlands County.

WFLA-TV reported Heather Town died when her home was lifted off its foundation and she and her 3-year-old were thrown into nearby woods. The mother was found clutching the child, who survived.

In Starke, Fla., five dogs drowned early Monday when a swollen creek flooded an animal shelter, The Florida Times-Union reported.

Pinellas County saw flooding and at least 20 homes damaged during a tornado-like storm on Sunday.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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