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Florida Braces for Debby Downpour

By Chad Hemenway, PropertyCasualty360.com

June 25, 2012 • Reprints

NU Online News Service, June 25, 2:03 p.m. EDT

Record-setting Tropical Storm Debby has formed in the Gulf of Mexico and is scheduled to move at a snail’s pace across Northern Florida this week.

According to weather forecasters and enthusiasts, Debby marks the first time since record-keeping began in 1851 that a fourth tropical storm has formed in the Atlantic before July.

Tropical storm-force winds of about 60 mph and heavy rain, as well as tornadoes are possible.

Debby is expected to make landfall Tuesday morning in upper Florida between Apalachicola and Cross City as a strong tropical storm, according to AccuWeather.com, which adds that wind shear should prevent Debby from becoming a hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center says 10-20 inches of rain are expected across northern and centralFlorida.

Insurance carriers have already started the claims-handling process, as Debby has spawned dozens of tornadoes in Florida and surrounding states. Downed trees and power lines have been reported.

Many areas from Tampa to Panama City have experienced flooding. More than six inches of rain had fallen in Tampa-St. Petersburg as of the early evening hours on Sunday, AccuWeather reports.

“The main risks associated with Debby are tropical storm-strength winds that will continue to affect portions of the northeast Gulf Coast over the next few days, coastal flooding related to storm surge, flooding as a result of heavy rainfall, and the risk of a few tornadoes across the eastern Florida Panhandle,” says Neena Saith, director of catastrophe response at catastrophe modeler Risk Management Solutions (RMS).

Tim Doggett, principal scientist at catastrophe modeler AIR Worldwide says Debby “could pose a serious flooding threat.”

The soil in much of Florida is already saturated from recent rain, observe forecasters.

Flooding is not covered by a standard homeowners’ policy and Florida leads all other states in the number of flood policies with 2.1 million, according to the National Flood Insurance Program.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida’s state-run insurer, is the leading writer of homeowners’ multi-peril and commercial insurance, with market shares of 20 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively.

State Farm holds a 19.5 percent market share among private passenger auto insurers in the Sunshine State, followed by Berkshire Hathaway (17.7 percent), Allstate (13.4 percent), Progressive (11.0) and USAA (5.7 percent).

via Florida Braces for Debby Downpour | PropertyCasualty360.