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Tropical Storm Debby lingers in Gulf waters

June 26, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Just like a visiting relative you do not favor, Tropical Storm Debby doesn't appear to be leaving soon enough.

Since it was given a name on Saturday, this tropical event has been lingering in the northern Gulf and has influenced the Southwest Florida area by causing high wind, heavy wave action and damage along the beaches.

On Fort Myers Beach, Tropical Storm Debby reached Day 4 on Tuesday by continuing to hammer sea walls along Gulf beachfront properties, especially during high tide zones.

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Sea walls and staircases are being impacted along the Beach shorelines.

"Looking at the satellite, we continue to have a stream of moisture coming into Debby," said Paul Walker, senior meteorologist at "It looks like Debby will be slowly moving across north Florida over the next couple of days. So, I think we'll continue to have that stream of moisture across Southwest Florida with additional showers and thunderstorms from time to time.

Walker believes the heavy precipitation will be persistent through Thursday.

"By Friday, it appears to be moving away from the northeast Florida coastline," he said.

The tropical storm has remained nearly stationary in the northern Gulf due to weak steering currents, according to The Atlantic is most likely its destination at week's end.

"The storm is moving very slowly. It is only moving to the east around 3 or 4 MPH," said Walker. "There's a very weak upper steering pattern up there."

Meanwhile, erosion has taken place along the Estero Island shoreline. Reports have Leonardo Arms, which has already suffered erosion stress caused by tidal action that has been cutting back the existing bank at the property, in need of more sand bags as the water creeps closer to the condominium buildings.

Many sea turtle nests along Fort Myers Beach and up and down the Gulf coastline have been washed away as well. The first recorded nest was expected to hatch any day now, but flooding has doomed that event.

"In all the years I have monitored, this is worst than Hurricane Charley and the no-name storm back in 1985," said Turtle Time founder Eve Haverfield. "We are unsure if any of the nests survived."

Haverfield stated her volunteers have been unable to make a complete inventory due to the high water table at the Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area.

"We've tried, but it's like quicksand over there," she said.

Even the restored northern end of Estero Island has seen much flooding due to constant beach raking. Some nests have been relocated there.

Turtle Time has received calls from people who have found eggs after nests have eroded.

"We have reburied eggs back into the sand, but we have no idea if they will survive. This is nature and, unpleasant as it is, we still have a month to go and we are still anticipating new nests and hopefully get some hatchlings back in the Gulf," she said.

By mid-afternoon Monday, Lee County Emergency Operations Center were reporting "higher than normal waves with spray and some flooding along coastal roads" due to the on-shore winds associated with Tropical Storm Debby.

In its advisory, Lee EOC recommended residents and visitors to use extreme caution when driving on coastal roads and crossing bridges during the high-tide cycles.

Also Monday afternoon, Lee County Parks & Recreation had recommended the public avoid its coastal parks due to the severe weather. Higher than normal waves with spray and some flooding were witnessed over Crescent Beach Family Park.

"Debby has been sheared in two with the mid-level circulation blown off the Atlantic coast, while the low-level circulation has been left behind over the northeastern Gulf of Mexico," said Sr. Vice President Joseph P. Sobel, Ph.D. "Assuming the system gets its second wind, it is likely to be picked up by a trough over the northeastern United States and pushed eastward across the Florida Peninsula and into the Atlantic."



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