APALACHICOLA, Fla. — Florida’s governor issued a stern warning Thursday for a state that hasn’t had a hurricane landfall for a decade: Hermine, expected to hit the eastern Florida Panhandle by early Friday, could be memorably dangerous.
Now spinning across the Gulf of Mexico, Hermine became a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday and is expected to slam into the Big Bend region of Florida’s Gulf Coast around midnight, bringing potentially deadly storm surges of up to 8 feet along with heavy rain. Rainfall totals could reach 20″ or more for sections of Central Florida.
Tornadoes will be a significant threat throughout the state also.
When Hermine makes its expected landfall, it would be the first hurricane to do so in the state since Wilma in 2005.
“This is life-threatening,” Gov. Rick Scott told reporters in Tallahassee on Thursday. “The storm surge, by itself, is life-threatening.”
“We have not had a hurricane in years. So many people have moved to our state (since) then, and we always have visitors,” he said. He warned people in the storm’s path to have at least three days of supplies and to heed any mandatory evacuation orders along the coast.
Scott declared a state of emergency for 51 of the state’s 67 counties. He ordered all state offices in those 51 counties to close by noon Thursday.
On Thursday afternoon, its maximum sustained winds hit 75 mph, upgrading Hermine’s status from a tropical storm to a hurricane.
Storm surges and tides could push 1 to 8 feet of water into normally dry coastal areas, from Destin on the Panhandle to Tampa in west-central Florida, the National Hurricane Center said.
The National Weather Service has issued a new online product to help people prepare for the storm. The storm surge watch/warning graphic highlights spots with the highest risk for “life-threatening inundation from storm surge,” the service said.