TS Debby relentless in soggy assault on Fla.

(CBS News) ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Florida was under a state of emergency Tuesday, with Tropical Storm Debby sitting off the Gulf Coast, and in no apparent rush to make landfall.

Debby had barely budged in 72 hours, socking Florida with flood-producing rains, high winds, and tornadoes.

And it wasn't over.

Forecasters said another eight inches of rain was possible in coming days.

The wind and surf were ferocious in St. Petersburg Tuesday, as they were through much of Florida's northwest coast.

No National Guard troops had been activated and no requests had been issued for federal disaster assistance. But Gov. Rick Scott pleaded with residents not to take Debby lightly.

Debby has been stalled in the Gulf for four days, dumping 10-to-15 inches of rain on millions of Floridians, from Fort Myers across the panhandle.

Without even making landfall, the system triggered at least 20 reports of tornadoes.

"All of a sudden, it gets very quiet, and I thought, 'Oh, the storm is over. ... Then I heard this explosion, and I heard this pow!" said Cleo Robertson.

The 73 year old watched anxiously as a possible twister closed in on her home in hard-hit Pasagrill Sunday.

It tore through her neighbor's home before jumping to hers - one of the oldest houses in the community.

"All the people ... came out of (an) apartment, six of them, scared to death. They had to be evacuated, because their roof was gone," Robertson said.

Another reported tornado, in Highlands County, killed a woman as she held onto her young child.

The victim's father, Elmer Town, said he "could picture her holding the baby, not letting her go. Just to know that my daughter was holding her baby so tight."

The Coast Guard came to the rescue of another family and their two dogs, hoisting them to safety after water surrounded their vacation home.

Forecasters say flooding will pose the biggest threat over the next couple of days.

Residents waded in knee-deep water Monday as sinkholes popped up in other neighborhoods, a truck teetering over one gaping hole.

By the end of the week, Debby could dump more than two feet of rain on some coastal communities.

While the storm has helped ease Florida's drought conditions, most of those affected are ready to see Debby move on.

Some 30,000 customers had lost power due to Debby, and officials said they expect many more outages as Debby makes landfall.

To see Michelle Miller's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.

Comments

Follow Us

The Newsroom