The slow-moving tropical weather pattern that battered Sanibel and Captiva for days as well as all of Florida this week made landfall in north Florida late Tuesday and headed for the Atlantic Ocean Wednesday afternoon.
The storm system was upgraded to Tropical Depression status briefly before becoming Tropical Storm Debby last weekend as it meandered from the Yucatan Peninsula northward in the central Gulf of Mexico. A projected turn to the west never happened and Debby drifted north and east ever so slightly off the Panhandle and Big Bend coastline in the northeastern Gulf, dumping heavy rain and strong wind gusts from the Keys to Jacksonville to Pensacola.
Aside from some localized flooding and brief power outages, Sanibel and Captiva escaped major damage from Debby's several inches of rainfall or the high winds. Reports of tornado touchdowns were reported in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties leaving behind a trail of downed trees, crushed cars and roof damage.
Windswept waves in San Carlos Bay splash over the retaining wall onto the Sanibel Causeway Bridge roadway.
Sanibel Police closed Lighthouse Road near the fishing pier at 9 a.m. Monday due to erosion created by the storm. The parking lot at the pier remains open, but the road will remain closed until repairs are made after the water recedes. A portion of Dixie Beach Road also had to be closed Tuesday because of high water.
"There has been very few incidents," said John Sherwood of the Sanibel Police Department's records division. "We had a few alarms going off and closed Lighthouse Road, but that's about it."
The Lee County Emergency Operations Center issued an advisory Tuesday for residents and visitors to use extreme caution when traveling on coastal roads, bridges and the Sanibel Causeway, especially during high tide periods.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management continues to monitor the system as it picked up speed crossing the state Wednesday as a downgraded Tropical Depression. It was expected to strengthen again over open water as it headed to the North Atlantic late in the week.
Periods of heavy rain still drenched Southwest Florida midweek with rainfall totals expected to top seven inches or more in some areas.
According to the AccuWeather.com website, Debby was sheared in two Monday with the mid-level circulation blown off the Atlantic coast with the low-level circulation left behind over the northeastern Gulf.
Residents along both coasts of Florida should continue to monitor developments through the weekend.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1 and continues through November 30.