MIAMI (AP) - Tropical Storm Debby spun drenching rains Monday over northern Florida as it hung nearly stationary over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening to inundate low-lying neighborhoods.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect along the Florida Panhandle as the storm parked offshore. Even with the storm's center far from land, it lashed Florida with heavy rains and spawned isolated tornadoes that killed at least one person.
And in Alabama, crews planned to continue searching for a South Carolina man who disappeared in rough surf Sunday afternoon. The man, whose name and hometown were not immediately released, was vacationing with his family when he went underwater around 1:45 p.m. Sunday, said Melvin Shepherd, director of beach safety for Orange Beach, Ala.
MORE: Track Tropical Storm Debby (Weather.gov)
The storm also prompted the closing of the sole bridge to St. George Island, popular vacation island in Florida.
Residents in several counties near the crook of Florida's elbow were urged to leave low-lying neighborhoods because of the threat of flooding. High winds forced the closure of an interstate bridge that spans Tampa Bay and links St. Petersburg with areas to the southeast. In several locations, homes and businesses were damaged by high winds authorities believe were from tornadoes.
Authorities in the Tampa Bay area were asking residents and tourists to stay away from flooded streets. Some streets were still under water early Monday, while others were blocked with debris.
The constant barrage of wind and rain triggered fears of the widespread flooding that occurred across the Florida Panhandle during Hurricane Dennis in 2005. Officials on Monday said the main bridge to St. George Island was closed as the storm loomed. Power was already out on the island and authorities said it could be out for days.
As of 8 a.m. EDT Monday, Debby's center was essentially stationary about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south-southwest of Apalachicola, Fla. Debby's top sustained winds were around 50 mph (85 kph) with little change in strength expected over the next day or so. The forecast map indicated the storm could inch forward through the week, eventually coming ashore over the Panhandle. However, a storm's path is difficult to discern days in advance.
MORE: Tropical Storm Debby advisory (National Hurricane Center)