JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After two days of rain, Tropical Storm Debby promises to bring more of the same in the coming days as it continues to hover in the Gulf of Mexico, in no apparent hurry to make landfall.
The National Hurricane Center said Debby was about 35 miles west-northwest of Cedar Key and moving east-northeast at 6 mph at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Debby weakened slightly Tuesday morning, with its maximum sustained winds falling to about 40 mph, barely tropical storm status. It is expected to weaken to a tropical depression in the next day or so.
Still, the storm made its presence felt Monday, bringing driving rains that caused flooding in low-lying areas across hundreds of miles of north Florida and the Gulf Coast.
Standing water had portions of I-10 and dozens of surface roads closed Tuesday morning and normally placid creeks overflowed their banks. There is a voluntary evacuation in Clay County for residents along the north prong of the Black Creek.
A tropical storm warning remained in effect Tuesday for about 450 miles of coastline, from Mexico Beach in the Panhandle to Englewood, south of Sarasota. Debby is expected to make landfall Wednesday night.
Gov. Rick Scott declared a statewide emergency, allowing authorities to put laws against price-gouging into effect and override bureaucratic hurdles to deal with the storm.
While Central Florida residents wait for Debby to make its slow move toward the Florida coast, many people will start a big cleanup job on Tuesday.
Debby is slowly moving toward a landfall just north of Cedar Key in Levy County.
Overnight, people in the coastal town were checking their waterfront businesses to make sure the Gulf of Mexico doesn't come right through the windows.
Just last week, Cedar Key residents were dealing with a drought that had shut down the city's water supply, leaving residents to rely on bottled water and tanks set up by the city.
The wind and rain damaged roughed up neighborhoods and pulled down trees in Winter Garden.
Parts of northern Florida received 19 inches of rain Monday.
"The widespread flooding is the biggest concern," said Florida Emergency Operations Center spokeswoman Julie Roberts. "It's a concern that Debby is going to be around for the next couple of days, and while it sits there, it's going to continue to drop rain. The longer it sits, the more rain we get."
At least one person was killed Sunday by a tornado spun off by Debby in Florida, and Alabama authorities searched for a man who disappeared in the rough surf.
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