Tropical Storm Debby continues aiming toward Northwest Florida

Tropical Storm Debby continued moseying toward Florida’s west coast on Tuesday morning, still bringing rain to much of the state.

With the forecast track beginning to settle, it appears likely the system will make landfall in the vicinity of Cedar Key on the state’s northwest coast sometime on Wednesday.

At that point, it is projected to have sustained winds of about 40 mph, or what would amount to a weak tropical storm.

At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Debby was about 70 miles west of Cedar Key, crawling east at 3 mph with sustained winds of 40 mph. That's down from 45 mph earlier this morning.

Debby remains disorganized, with most of its clouds and storms northeast of its center, over North Florida and Georgia.

Even so, it still is expected to produce an additional 4 to 8 inches of rain over those areas over the next few days. Isolated tornadoes also remain a threat, the National Hurricane Center said.

Debby already has dumped up to two feet of rain in some areas of North and Central Florida, flooding streets, homes and low-lying areas.

The storm also has spawned more than 20 tornadoes, damaging homes and businesses, and downing trees and power lines.

The Florida Highway Patrol closed portions of Interstate 10 because of flooding along 50-mile stretch in North Florida. The storm also is responsible for two deaths.

Emergency officials called for voluntary evacuation of residents living in low-lying areas of Wakulla County, on Florida's Panhandle.

Gov. Rick Scott has declared a statewide emergency, allowing damaged areas to draw on state resources.

"Because of the broad impact of Tropical Storm Debby, virtually every county in Florida could be affected. Some communities are already grappling with flooding, wind damage and electrical outages," Scott said in a statement.

Federal help also is waiting in the wings. On Tuesday morning, President Obama called Scott to assure that his administration - by way of FEMA - is ready to lend assistance. The president also expressed his condolences for the loss of life and extensive property damage.

After hitting land, Debby is expected to downgrade into a tropical depression and cross the state, coming near Gainesville and Jacksonville.

It then is forecast to emerge in the Atlantic on Friday and re-strengthen into a tropical storm.

Copyright © 2015, South Florida
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