ST. GEORGE ISLAND, Fla.: Debby, the guest that wouldn’t leave, is ruining things for a lot of other visitors.
Vacationers were wearing ponchos instead of swimsuits at the peak of the summer season because of the tropical storm, which has drenched Florida for at least four days straight like a giant shower head set up over the state’s Gulf Coast. Debby has dumped as much as 26 inches of rain in some spots.
Disney World wasn’t as crowded as usual, and one of its water parks closed because of the soggy, windy weather. Also, Sea World closed early on Monday.
Along the Florida Panhandle, where Debby sat offshore nearly motionless for days, the parking lot at the 100-room Buccaneer Inn was empty because of a power outage ahead of the usually big pre-July Fourth weekend.
“We’ve had bad luck on this island,” said the inn’s vice president, JoAnn Shiver. “We’ve had Dennis. We’ve had Katrina. We had the oil spill.”
In a state where the biggest attractions are the sand and the sun, Debby forced many to make other plans.
Douglas and Carolyn Green of Nashville, Tenn., were supposed to spend a week on St. George Island with three generations of family, but arrived to find the electricity was out and the bridge closed to non-residents for fear of looters. They spent Monday night in nearby Apalachicola, and then all nine relatives headed to Fort Walton Beach.
“We never saw the island,” said Douglas Green. “We’re moving on. Plan B, I guess you’d call it.”
Debby finally blew ashore Tuesday afternoon near Steinhatchee in the Big Bend area, the crook of Florida’s elbow. It had sustained winds near 40 mph, barely a tropical storm. It is expected to cross the state and head into the Atlantic this afternoon.
Several areas in northern Florida have received more than 10 inches of rain, and forecasters said southeastern Georgia could expect the same. Wakulla, an area in northwestern Florida known for camping and canoeing, has gotten more than 26 inches.
A woman was killed in a tornado spun off from the storm, and a man disappeared in the rough surf over the weekend in Alabama. The storm knocked out power to 250,000 homes and business since it began over the weekend, but electricity had been restored to all but about 35,000 customers. Debby has caused mostly scattered flooding, but forecasters warned it could get worse.
“Even though the winds are coming down, the rain threat continues,” said James Franklin at the National Hurricane Center. “We expect another 4 to 8 inches, in some of these areas up in north Florida, in particular.”