The National Hurricane Center has written the last advisory on what is now Post-Tropical Cyclone Debby. It is always instructive to look back after a tropical cyclone event and see if we can learn (or re-learn) anything.
Here are some of my thoughts related to the various hazards from Debby.
Rainfall: We need to remember that there is no correlation between a tropical cyclone’s intensity and rainfall. A weak but slow moving tropical cyclone like Debby can result in extremely high rainfall. Several areas of North and Central Florida received 10 to 15 inches of rain with an isolated amount near 29 inches reported near Tallahassee. Roads were closed and homes were flooded. Much of the flooding occurred after Debby had weakened below its maximum intensity.
Wind: The maximum sustained winds during the lifetime of Tropical Storm Debby reached 60 mph with some gusts reported to hurricane force. Tens of thousands of people lost power. It does not take sustained hurricane force winds to result in downed power lines. If the ground is saturated from the heavy rains, strong tropical storm force winds can down trees or break tree limbs.
Storm Surge: The persistent tropical storm force winds from the large circulation of Debby forced a likely four to six feet of storm surge onto portions of the Florida Gulf coast mainly between Tampa and Apalachicola. A family of nine was rescued by Coast Guard helicopter from Dog Island when the waters rose from the surge. Again, it doesn’t take a hurricane to result in significant storm surge. Someday, the Florida Keys will be reminded of this.
Tornadoes: Many tropical storms and hurricanes are accompanied by tornadoes in the outer rainbands. Debby was no exception. One tornado in Venus, FL (about 90 miles southeast of Tampa) resulted in the death of a person when her home was struck.
When developing your hurricane plan for your family or your business, you need to know your vulnerability to all of the hazards of a tropical cyclone.