Tropical Depression Debby finishing its journey across Florida, could become storm again

Tropical Depression Debby is expected to finish its journey across Florida this morning, but not before dropping more rain on areas on a state that has seen knee-deep water.

Debby, which weakened from a tropical storm after making landfall Tuesday, has dumped roughly 2 feet of rain in parts of northern Florida.

The storm has paralyzed neighborhoods for days, though some motorists still attempted to drive through floodwater.

"Sadly, my car didn't make it through the flooding. My car was just too low, and (the water) ended up hydro-locking the vehicle," said New Port Richey resident Magalie Caragiorgio, who has missed two days of work. "I haven't been able to get my car towed due to the amount of cars being stranded."

But rainfall was expected to diminish across Florida on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

As of 5 a.m. ET Wednesday, Debby was centered about 25 miles southeast of St. Augustine, Florida, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm was moving east-northeast at 10 mph, carrying maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.

"Additional isolated rainfall amounts of up to 1 inch will be possible in some of the lingering rain bands, mainly over southern Florida," the weather agency said.

The flooding has stunned residents across Florida, a state accustomed to dealing with tropical weather.

"It's astonishing. I've never seen anything like this," Keith Blackmar of the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday. "Our soil is sandy, so it handles water well, but not this much rain."

In Sopchoppy, authorities rescued 57 people from homes surrounded by rising water, Blackmar said.

"The water levels came up so fast, some of the folks didn't have time to actually pack their things and move out," Wakulla County Undersheriff Maurice Langston said.

Florida State University researcher Jeff Chanton said the area's low-lying terrain has contributed to the misery.

"The coastal gradient -- the rise of the land -- is very, very low here," Chanton said. "If you were to go swimming here and walk out from shore, you could walk out half a mile." That means a relatively small storm surge can push water "tens or hundreds of feet onshore," he said.

More than 26 inches of rain had been recorded in Sanborn, south of Tallahassee, by Tuesday. Nearby St. Marks saw nearly 22 inches.

In Pasco County, north of Tampa, authorities issued a mandatory evacuation order Tuesday for 2,000 homes along the Cotee River. Officials were traveling by boat and car to get the word out, and water was standing in some homes as of Tuesday, county spokesman Eric Keaton said.

A total of 106 homes in the county are reported damaged, Keaton said.

President Barack Obama called Florida Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday "to ensure the state had no unmet needs as the governor and his team continue to respond to extreme weather and flooding," the White House said.

At the state's request, a FEMA liaison officer was on site at the Florida state emergency operations center, according to the White House.

Flooding was seen as far south as Fort Myers, where the Caloosahatchee River overflowed its banks into the downtown area. CNN iReporter Alex Butler, who is also a reporter at CNN affiliate WFTX, said normally there is a wall separating the land from the river, but the wall was underwater Tuesday.

A projection map shows Debby leaving Florida's northeast coast and heading into the Atlantic Ocean later Wednesday.

CNN's George Howell, Sean Morris, Henry Hanks, Matt Smith, Ashley Hayes, Sarah Dillingham, Kim Segal, John Zarrella, Rich Phillips and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.


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