We have been watching Topical Storm Debby closely over the past few days. The storm formed over the eastern gulf Friday. Although we were confident that the storm would bring some sort of impact to our area, models had been in disagreement about the storm’s potential for development and exact location of landfall, with most tracks initially predicting that the system would move towards the west, away from Florida. However, the storm instead shifted towards the northeast, resulting in a much more direct impact to our area, producing heavy winds and almost 10 inches of rain in Gainesville.
We are now reasonably certain that the storm will make landfall somewhere on the coast of the Florida panhandle or the Nature Coast. However, it does not matter much where the center moves, as the heavy rain bands, gusty winds and tornado threats are hundreds of miles from the center. As of 2:50pm Monday, a Tropical Storm warning is in effect until further notice for Florida’s gulf coast from Gulf County to Sarasota County. Tornado watches for the panhandle have been cancelled, but they remain in effect until 11pm for most of north-central Florida.
During the overnight hours, Debby stalled in the Gulf. As of the 2pm advisory, the system’s center is moving slowly to the northeast at around 5 mph. Most models now show the storm’s center moving over Florida sometime Tuesday morning. The GFDL takes the storm slightly farther to the north, with landfall in Taylor County around 8AM Tuesday and more of a direct impact to Lake City and Jacksonville later Wednesday. On the other hand, the HWRF and NAM predict a more southern landfall site somewhere between Cedar Key and Horseshoe Beach around 8PM Tuesday, and both bring the storm closer to Gainesville and Ocala on Wednesday.
Written with the help of UF Forecasters Damien Seepersad and Dan Henry.