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Not even a hurricane, Debby left trail of havoc

Four dead. Seven tornadoes. Major roads and bridges closed. An entire beach business district torn up. Thousands of people evacuated from their homes. Tens of thousands of people without power for days. Sounds like a hurricane, right?

These were the remnants of Tropical Storm Debby, a middling tropical storm at best, with top winds of only 50 mph. And this is damage only in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Hernando counties.

Debby proved a painful and at times deady reminder of the sheer power of even a minor tropical storm system.

For three days, the storm held an entire region hostage. Beyond loss of life and severe structural damage, Debby altered the lives of hundreds of thousands of people suddenly beset by flooded homes, closed roads and lack of power.

"Tropical Storm Debby has done more to erase our hurricane amnesia than all of the hurricane specials, hurricane expos, weather talks and newspaper sections combined," said Mike Clay, chief meteorologist with Bay News 9.

In Debby's aftermath, Clay was asking himself a question that was on the minds of thousands of Tampa Bay residents.

"What would a Category 1 do here?"

Times staff

Rainfall topped 15 inches in Brooksville.

With 15 inches of rain across Hernando County, the earth began to give way and sinkholes opened, particularly at County Line Road and the Suncoast Parkway

Numerous areas along the coastal Hernando and Pasco counties had heavy flooding that forced some residents out of their homes.

The U.S. post office in Elfers is without a roof. A suspected tornado blew it off on Sunday.

Homeowners in Thousand Oaks in Trinity used sledgehammers to punch holes in the wall around their community, trying to relieve waist-high water trapped inside.

Stretches of State Road 54 were closed for days.

By Wednesday, more than 7,000 homes and businesses in southwest Pasco County were evacuated.

Two dozen residents of Suncoast Gateway Mobile Village were evacuated Wednesday morning when floodwaters rose above electrical boxes.

A body was found Wednesday morning in a flooded street near the Anclote River.

A body was retrieved from the water in New Port Richey.

More than 15,000 Tampa Bay area residences were without power, some for several days.

Pinellas County's 35 miles of beaches were hit with heavy flooding and erosion.

A tornado damaged numerous businesses and residences in Pass-a-Grille.

With 10 inches of rain, lowlands such as Shore Acres in St. Petersburg and Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa were under water.

A female manatee was found dead along Bayshore Boulevard. A male and a calf wouldn't leave her side.

Hillsborough transit buses delayed or rerouted.

Rivers throughout all four counties rose to flooding or near-flooding, causing evacuations.

Tarpon Springs had about 15 inches of rain and sustained heavy flooding around its historic tourist district.

About 40 residents evacuated by boat Sunday from Sherwood Forest Travel Trailer Park.

Body retrieved from water in Largo.

Pinellas transit buses delayed or rerouted.

Several major bridges, including the Howard Frankland and Courtney Campbell, were closed at least temporarily.

Indian Rocks Beach man drowned Sunday in shallow floodwater near his home.

The Sunshine Skyway bridge was closed for three days, the longest stretch in its 25-year history.

Not even a hurricane, Debby left trail of havoc 06/29/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 29, 2012 8:09pm]
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