NEW ORLEANS -- Parts of Florida and Alabama were under a tropical storm warning Sunday as Debby churned off the Gulf Coast, leaving wary residents to closely watch a storm system already inundating some areas with rain. At least one death in Florida was blamed on the weather.
Underscoring the storm's unpredictable nature, forecasters discontinued a tropical storm warning for Louisiana after forecast models indicated Debby was less likely to make a westward turn than initially predicted. Coastal Alabama and parts of Florida, including the Panhandle, remained under tropical storm warnings.
Debby already had dumped heavy rain on parts of Florida and spawned some isolated tornadoes, causing some damage to homes and knocking down power lines. High winds forced the closure of an interstate bridge that spans Tampa Bay and links St. Petersburg with areas to the southeast.
Storm tracks are difficult to predict days in advance. But as of late Sunday the latest forecast map shows the center of the storm 100 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Fla., and likely to meander northward for several days before making landfall.
Chris Landsea, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center, said forecasters rely on computer models which were contradictory until Sunday.
"They came into a bit more of an agreement that the westward turn is less likely," he said.
Near the mouth of the Mississippi southeast of New Orleans, Plaquemines
At least one tornado linked to the storm touched down Saturday in southwest Florida, but no injuries were reported. Another was reported Sunday in Venus, damaging some homes.