Tropical Storm Debby picked up speed late Tuesday afternoon and made landfall sooner than expected.
Debby hit around 5 p.m. near Steinhatchee, close to the Cedar Key area of Florida.
During the next 24 hours, the sweet spot of the storm will run across north-central Florida heading toward the Atlantic, but the rains will flow south along the Withlacoochee River. It could make life treacherous for those living in Ridge Manor and other communities sliced by the river, although the National Weather Service downgraded the possibility of severe flooding late Tuesday.
Some areas — including Masaryktown, Brookridge and High Point — received more than 13 inches of rain Sunday, according to the National Weather Service out of Ruskin.
There was about an inch Monday and 2 more inches Tuesday. Up to 2 inches also are expected to fall today, said forecaster Tom Dougherty.
"By Thursday, it looks like it might be improving somewhat," Dougherty said of the storm conditions.
By the time Debby enters the Atlantic Ocean, it will have left 15 to 20 inches in some parts of Hernando County, he said.
The storm's aftermath will continue to be felt into the weekend.
Emergency management officials have been warning residents who live close to the Withlacoochee River — particularly in Croom, Trilby, Dunnellon and elsewhere — that the river could reach flood levels by late today and get significantly worse by Saturday.
Cecilia Patella, director of the Hernando County Emergency Management department, told county commissioners Tuesday that coastal flooding remains a concern as the storm moves eastward. Dougherty said counties with sandy shores — particularly Pinellas and Sarasota — have the most to worry about in terms of coastal flooding. He said Hernando should be spared from any significant damage.
More dangers could come along the eastern side of the county as the Withlacoochee continues to swell.
As a result of the pending flood risk, the American Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Ridge Manor Community Center at 34244 Cortez Blvd. Sand and sandbags will be available for residents.
Debby caused significant damage Sunday across Hernando. Trees fell onto roadways, the Suncoast Parkway was flooded between State Road 50 and U.S. 98, and sinkholes were discovered in various places.
Several road closings have been issued as a result of flooding, sinkholes or other weather-related damage.
The High Point Volunteer Fire Department was deluged with calls about flooded streets. The subdivision along the north end of State Road 50 near Oak Hill Hospital had about a dozen intersections closed to traffic because of heavy rains.
The National Weather Service reported on Sunday about 14 inches of rain for High Point. CNN last weekend reported upwards of 13 inches for Brookridge, located about 4 miles east of High Point.
"We had quite a bit of flooding in those low-lying intersections," said High Point Fire Chief Joe Curcio. "We had to close intersections, and we had to push some cars out of the water. … We had to do what we could because he only had a limited number of barriers."
Cones had to be used at some of the intersections, he said.
Mutual aid didn't come from Hernando County Fire Rescue because those first responders were busy taking care of calls at major highways and roadways.
"We put the county on notice that we had some serious flooding and we had to take care of it ourselves," Curcio said. "The county was extremely busy."
Hernando County road closures
Hernando County road closures
- Spring Hill Drive from the Hernando County Jail to Florida Department of Transportation office
- Mariner Boulevard from Little Street to Claymore Street
- Claymore Street at Keeport Drive
- Citrus Way at U.S. 98
- Old Crystal River Road at Ajax Street
- Richloam Clay Sink at State Road 50
- Croom Road from U.S. 41 east to McIntyre Road
- Clinton Drive from S.R. 50 to Providence Boulevard
- Rosewood Drive at Lynbrook Lane
- Northcliffe Boulevard at Lamson Avenue
- The Suncoast Parkway from S.R. 50 north to U.S. 98
- Quarterhorse Lane