(CBS/AP) TAMPA, Fla. - Practically parked off Florida's Gulf Coast since the weekend, Tropical Storm Debby raked the Tampa Bay area with high wind and heavy rain Monday in a drenching that could top 2 feet over the next few days and trigger widespread flooding.
At least one person was killed Sunday by a tornado spun off by the large storm system in Florida, and Alabama authorities searched for a man who disappeared in the rough surf.
An estimated 35,000 homes and businesses lost electricity. But as of midafternoon, the slow-moving storm had caused only scattered damage, including flooding in some low-lying areas.
CBS affiliate WTSP in Tampa reports that tornadoes are expected again and are likely over inland locations. The storm has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. Little change in strength is expected over the next couple of days, but Debby should remain a tropical storm before making landfall in the Florida panhandle.
The bridge leading to St. George Island, a vacation spot along the Florida Panhandle, was closed to everyone except residents, renters and business owners to keep looters out. The island had no power, and palm trees had been blown down, but roads were passable.
"Most true islanders are hanging in there because they know that you may or may not be able to get back to your home when you need to," said David Walker, an island resident having a beer at Eddy Teach's bar. He said he had been through many storms on the island and Debby was on the weaker end of the scale.
Gov. Rick Scott declared a statewide emergency, allowing authorities to put laws against price-gouging into effect and override bureaucratic hurdles to deal with the storm.
By 8 p.m. Monday, Debby was stationary in the Gulf of Mexico, 30 miles southwest of Apalachicola, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A tropical storm warning remained in effect Monday evening for more than 500 miles of coastline, from Destin in the upper Panhandle to Englewood, south of Sarasota.
Forecasters cautioned that Debby is a large tropical cyclone spreading strong winds and heavy rains at great distances from its center.
They said it would crawl to the northeast, come ashore along Florida's northwestern coast on Wednesday and track slowly across the state, exiting along the Atlantic Coast by Saturday morning and losing steam along the way.
Parts of northern Florida could get 10 to 15 inches of rain, and some spots as much as 25 inches, as the storm wrings itself out, forecasters said.
"The widespread flooding is the biggest concern," said Florida Emergency Operations Center spokeswoman Julie Roberts. "It's a concern that Debby is going to be around for the next couple of days, and while it sits there, it's going to continue to drop rain. The longer it sits, the more rain we get."
High winds and the threat of flooding forced the closing of an interstate highway bridge that spans Tampa Bay and links St. Petersburg with areas to the southwest.