Tropical Storm Debby continues to gather strength on Sunday as it hovers in the Gulf of Mexico on an uncertain path. The storm has been moving slowly northeastward since its formation in the Gulf on Saturday. The National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm warning in three states (Florida, Alabama, and Lousiana), leaving residents panicked and eagerly waiting to see where the storm will go.
In it's 11 a.m. advisory, the Hurricane Center acknowledged it is struggling with a "very difficult and highly uncertain forecast." The Center cautioned "we must be ready to make a change of the forecast track at any time."
Earlier this morning, the 60 mph storm was about 140 miles south of Florida, drifting north slowly. It is expected to remain over the open Gulf for the next few days, which means it could become a full-blown Hurricaine before making landfall on Thursday.
The storm has already dumped heavy rain on parts of Florida and caused the outbreak of several tornadoes, which has caused damage to homes and knocked down power lines.
Flooding from storm surge is a serious concern in Florida's Panhandle and Big Bend area, as well as coastal Louisiana. There, forecasters say the storm surge could reach 3-5 feet. There is also a risk of flooding that could top 10 inches in different sections of the northern Gulf coast.
PolicyMic will be tracking Debby's movements live. For real-time updates and damage assessments, refresh this page.
Tuesday 1:30 PM: Debby flooded homes, an animal shelter and closed parts of the main interstate highway across northern Florida on as the storm hung stubbornly offshore over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening up to two feet of rain in places.
Debby promised to bring more high winds, relentless rain and likely flooding to the already saturated state. It was forecast to cross Florida and head into the Atlantic on Thursday.
The storm was about 70 miles west of northwest Florida and moving east at 3 mph. Debby was weakening and had maximum sustained winds near 40 mph, barely a tropical storm.
The Florida Highway Patrol closed portions of Interstate 10 when troopers reported several areas of flooding on a roughly 50-mile stretch. Authorities warned motorists to use extreme caution on other parts of the highway.
6:00 PM EST: Heavy rain and flooding will impact much of Florida and southeast Georgia for the next several days. Portions of northern Florida and southeast Georgia could see another 2 to 6 inches of rain.
3:40 PM EST: Portions of northern Florida and southeast Georgia could see 6 to 12 inches of rain.
3:35 EST: Severe weather alerts here.
3:30 PM EST: Storm is headed northeast at 5 mph.
3:15 PM EST: (via CBS) "Debby forced the suspension of 8 percent of the region's oil and gas production.
The government reported that nine production platforms and one drilling rig were evacuated. The suspended crude production amounts to about 2 percent of U.S production and about 0.1 percent of global production. The reduced production is not expected to impact oil prices unless the storm strengthens and forces more production platforms to close.
Out in the Gulf, Anadarko Petroleum removed all non-essential personnel and expected to close four facilities in the central and eastern Gulf. Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and Marathon Oil said non-essential personnel were being removed but production was not being affected. ExxonMobil reported that its operations were unaffected."
3:00 PM EST: Many hurricane experts had predicted a normal season this year, so the fact that it has gotten off to a fast start is troubling to analysts. Debby is the fourth storm of 2012, the earliest that a fourth storm has occurred ever. Previously, Hurricane Dennis held that disctinction on July 5, 2005. In an average year, the fourth storm would have occurred on August 23.