Debby won't make the "Hurricane Pole"

3:42 PM, Jun 25, 2012   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: Tornadoes spawned by Tropical Storm Debby
A pickup truck sloshes through street flooding in St. Marks, Florida where Tropical Storm Debby threatens businesses on the water.
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ST. MARKS, Fla. - The small coastal town of St. Marks, Florida is one of many communities experiencing flooding from Tropical Storm Debby.

The Riverside Café is on the water in St. Marks and is barely staying dry for now. The water was lapping at the doorstep Monday morning as storm surge forced water levels higher along the coast.

The café is no stranger to damage from storms. It has been flooded several times over the past 20 years. A support beam in the middle of the restaurant, known as the "Hurricane Pole," documents the damage.

The pole shows the water line for various storms including Opal in 1995, Earl in 1999, and Dennis in 2005. Dennis holds the high-water record.

David Hilton, who lives on a boat, remembers them all.

"We mark every hurricane that comes through so you can keep track of the ones and how much water. Dennis was the highest with water, but it didn't have as much wind. Earl and Opal, they packed a punch," he says. 

St. Marks is also experiencing street flooding. That closed another café called the River Cantina on Monday, but the owners say they are looking to re-open on Tuesday.

On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Florida. That will help the state dedicate resources to areas that need help. He issued the state of emergency more than 24 hours after heavy rain began falling in the Tampa Bay region. That prompted the question of whether he should have responded quicker to the storm.

"We've done the right thing. This is the right time to respond. When we saw where this tropical storm was heading, what emergency management teams might need so we're prepared."

Florida's Emergency Operations Center went to a full-alert, Level 1 activation on Monday. All state emergency workers are getting called in to help coordinate Florida's response to the storm.

State Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon says Tropical Storm Debby could cause serious flooding across Florida. "We could be seeing 10 to 20 inches of rain in parts of the state that could lead to some fairly severe flooding," he says.

Debby knocked out power to about 35,000 residents as of Monday. The state opened nine shelters, but they have not seen many people.

Gov. Scott urged Floridians to use common sense during the storm.

"Be careful. If you're close to a beach be very cautious. Look at all the beach advisories. If there's any standing water, if there's any flooding, don't drive into it. Be very, very, very cautious. Don't go close to a power line that's down. You have to assume it's live. If you see one, make sure you call your utility. Keep track of your family and friends and, as we've talked about in all these hurricanes, have a plan."

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