Hermine Roars Ashore On Florida’s Gulf Coast

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TRACKING HERMINE

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For the first time in over a decade a hurricane has made landfall in Florida.

Hermine, a Category 1 storm, roared ashore just east of St. Marks around 1:30 a.m. with winds around 80 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Hermine later weakened to a tropical storm as it moved farther inland.

Projected storm surges of up to 12 feet menaced a wide swath of the coast and an expected drenching of up to 10 inches of rain carried the danger of flooding along the storm’s path over land, including the state capital Tallahassee, which hadn’t been hit by a hurricane since Kate in 1985.

As of 5 a.m. Friday, Hermine was weakening as it moved into southern Georgia, the Hurricane Center said. It was centered about 20 miles west of Valdosta, Georgia, and was moving north-northeast near 14 mph.

The last hurricane to strike Florida was Wilma, a powerful Category 3 storm that arrived on Oct. 24, 2005. It swept across the Everglades and struck heavily populated south Florida, causing five deaths in the state and an estimated $23 billion in damage.

After pushing through Georgia, Hermine was expected to move into the Carolinas and up the East Coast with the potential for drenching rain and deadly flooding.

While moving out of the state, Hermine’s outer bands continue to dump large amounts of rain across the Tampa Bay area.

Meteorologist Daniel Noah of the National Weather Service in Tampa says the rain should start slowing by Friday afternoon.

But the rain caused flooding in many areas of Tampa, St. Petersburg and coastal regions in Pinellas and Pasco counties. Law enforcement authorities are warning people to be extremely cautious while driving due to flooded roads and possible downed trees and power lines.

Noah says that over the past 72 hours, the Tampa Bay area has seen sign significant rainfall. An area west of Oldsmar in Pinellas County recorded 22.36 inches of rain while in nearby Largo some 15.23 inches of rain has fallen. Other rain totals include 10.73 inches in Seminole, 9.71 inches in Longboat Key and 8.61 inches in Port Richey.

Hurricane Hermine damage in Hillsborough County. (Source: Hillsborough Co. Fire Rescue)

Hurricane Hermine damage in Hillsborough County. (Source: Hillsborough Co. Fire Rescue)

In Florida’s Pasco County, north of Tampa, authorities said flooding forced 18 people from their homes in Green Key and Hudson Beach.

Flooding from Hermine in Pasco Co. (Source: Pasco Co. Sheriff's Office)

Flooding from Hermine in Pasco Co. (Source: Pasco Co. Sheriff’s Office)

In Wakulla County, south of Tallahassee, a couple suffered minor injuries during the storm when they drove into a tree that had fallen in the road, County Administrator Dustin Hinkel said early Friday. He said storm surge of 8 to 10 feet damaged docks and flooded coastal roads.

Many took no chances with Hermine.

Tallahassee resident Tom Duffy, 70, said Thursday that he planned to reserve a hotel room for Friday night in the neighboring state of Alabama if downed trees caused the kind of power outages he expected. The city government tweeted there were about 70,000 power outages reported around the capital city early Friday.

“We’ve dodged bullet after bullet after bullet,” Duffy said, but added that Hermine has taken “dead aim” at the city, where blustery winds sent trees swaying before dawn.

In Carrabelle, on the coast just 60 miles southwest of Tallahassee, Courtney Chason was keeping an eye on the storm surge as docks and boat houses were slowly being battered as the storm approached late Thursday.

“I’ve never seen it this high, it’s pretty damn crazy. I’ve been in this area for 30 years but I’ve never seen it like this,” Chason said. “I hope it doesn’t get any higher, we need lots of prayers.”

Residents on some islands and other low-lying, flood-prone areas in Florida had been urged to clear out. Flooding was expected across a wide swath of the marshy coastline of the Big Bend — the mostly rural and lightly populated corner where the Florida peninsula meets the Panhandle.

Governor Rick Scott warned of the danger of strong storm surges, high winds, downed trees and power outages, and urged people to move to inland shelters if necessary and make sure they have enough food, water and medicine.

“You can rebuild a home, you can rebuild property, you cannot rebuild a life,” Scott said at a news conference Thursday afternoon, adding that “we are going to see a lot of flooding.”

Scott, who declared an emergency in 51 counties, said 6,000 National Guardsmen were poised to mobilize for the storm’s aftermath. The governors of Georgia and North Carolina also declared states of emergency.

Across the Florida line in south Georgia, about a dozen people had already showed up by Thursday evening at a Red Cross shelter that opened at a city auditorium in Valdosta that’s normally used for banquets and gospel concerts.

Cynthia Arnold left her mobile home for the shelter with her brother and her 5-year-old grandson, adding “I’m not just going to sit there and be ignorant.”

Georgia Power reports that nearly 48,000 of its customers were without power statewide just after dawn Friday as Hermine rolls across the southern section of the state.

Georgia Power’s online outage map showed that many of the outages were in and around the cities of Valdosta, Brunswick and Savannah.

In the Valdosta area, Lowndes County spokeswoman Paige Dukes said crews were dealing with fallen trees and snapped power lines, but no injuries had been reported. She says winds exceeding 55 mph had been recorded in the county, with 4 to 5 inches of rainfall.

Rains of 4 to 10 inches were possible along the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas by Sunday. Lesser amounts were forecast farther up the Atlantic Coast, because the storm was expected to veer out to sea.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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