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DEBBY NOT YET WETTEST STORM, BUT IT'S CLOSE

With its listless meandering, Tropical Storm Debby had dropped more than a foot of water in some areas by Monday, with more on the way. It's not the rainiest of times - but it's not far off.

The single wettest day in local National Weather Service records was Aug. 2, 1915, when St. Petersburg logged in at 15.45 inches. Tampa topped out at 11.45 inches May 8, 1979.

Compare that to Sunday's 12.25 inches in Largo, 10.23 inches in Dunedin and 10.01 inches in Tarpon Springs.

That's more rain than St. Petersburg or Tampa has ever experienced in a single June day in a century of records. St. Petersburg's wettest June day was June 26, 1974, with 9.14 inches. Tampa had 9.88 on June 23, 1945.

While fast-moving hurricanes usually pack more destructive punch, indecisive tropical storms are the kings of water volume.

In June 1974, a four-day storm dropped 20 inches in some areas, according to records. Roads, beaches, sewers and drainage systems were heavily damaged and three people drowned.

The same 1979 storm that created Tampa's record rainfall dropped more than 18 inches in Pinellas County during one 24-hour period . Three people drowned.

As Debby progresses, similar multi-day levels are accumulating: Brooksville logged 15.13 inches in the 96 hours preceding 4 p.m. Monday. Tarpon Springs was up to 14.28, with more on the way.

Times staff writer Stephen Nohlgren. Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

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Pinellas County

Pinellas County residents spent most of Monday in recovery mode, cleaning up the destruction left by Tropical Storm Debby.

On the beaches, people enjoyed a break from the rain. On Clearwater Beach, children built sand castles and waded in a river left by Debby that ran parallel to the shoreline, while workers righted blown-over garbage cans and raked up debris on nearby sidewalks.

By about 9 a.m., floodwater had receded from most of Mandalay Avenue - the main drag through Clearwater Beach - but many side streets on the north end of the island were still under water.

On Sunday night, as the storm raged during high tide, water crept up to doorsteps.

"I've lived here six years, and this is the worst I've ever seen it," said Bill Post, 67, whose house is on Bruce Avenue, which remained under a few inches of murky brown water Monday morning.

He and other neighbors swept and raked clumps of leaves and dirt into small piles.

Egrets waded through the water, picking at it for food. The top complaint of most residents was fast-driving trucks and SUVs, which sent waves of water up driveways and into garages.

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Tow truck companies raced around the county, scooping up vehicles abandoned during the storm and rescuing stranded motorists.

Chris Leipold, a driver for Caladesi Towing, said it has been a busy 24 hours.

"We've towed more than 80 vehicles in the Palm Harbor, Ozona and East Lake area since yesterday," Leipold said as he hooked up a Saab 93. "I think this car is gone. People need to know, when they drive through water, it hydrolocks the motor. This engine is probably ruined."

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In Treasure Island, surfers gathered to catch waves at Sunset Beach. Among them was Eric Caplan, 22. With his white board tucked under his arm, he slowly waded into the gray water.

"I've been surfing for a little bit, so I kinda know what I'm doing out here," he said. "It's the only time we get good waves."

Farther away, Steve Colgate of Target Carpet pumped about 600 gallons of water from a 1939 house in the 7100 block of First Avenue that had flooded.

Joel Newburg, who lives there, said he found about 7 inches of water inside his first floor bedroom.

He tried to scoop it out with buckets. He called Colgate on Monday.

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In Clearwater, staff and volunteers at the Humane Society of Pinellas on State Road 590 moved about 50 animals to higher ground after part of the facility flooded Sunday night.

Spokeswoman Twila Cole said the shelter has kennels at the bottom of a hill. The animals, mostly dogs, were moved to other parts of the property.

The shelter is accepting donations of towels, blankets and cleaning supplies. It also is offering a $25 discount toward adoptions made today. For more information, call (727) 797-7722.

Times staff writers Drew Harwell, Laura C. Morel, Will Hobson, Piper Castillo and Kameel Stanley contributed to this report.

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