As the tropical system that has been slowly drifting toward Florida for the past week approaches landfall, it’s finally strong enough to have earned a name: Tropical Storm Hermine.
Current projections call for Hermine to make landfall in Florida’s Big Bend region late Thursday or early Friday. A tropical storm warning has been issued from the Walton/Bay County Line to the Anclote River near Tarpon Springs, Fla. A hurricane watch covers a similar area, from Indian Pass near Apalachicola Bay to the Anclote River.
The slow-moving storm is currently located about 365 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Fla. It’s expected to continue a north-northeastward motion today, with a turn toward the northeast with increasing forward speed expected Thursday. Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 40 miles per hour, with higher gusts. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next day or two, and forecasters said Hermine could be near hurricane strength by the time landfall occurs.
Total rainfall amounts of 5 to 10 inches are possible over portions of central and northern Florida through Friday, forecasters said, with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches possible. Coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas are also expected to receive storm total rainfall of 4 to 7 inches, with local amounts of 10 inches possible through Saturday morning. These rains could cause flooding and flash flooding, forecasters said.
The storm is expected to move through North Florida and into the Georgia and South Carolina coasts before heading out to the Atlantic. A tropical storm watch is also in effect for the area between Marineland, Fla. and Altamaha Sound, Ga.
In advance of the storm’s landfall, Governor Rick Scott proactively declared a state of emergency for 42 counties, including most of central Florida.
Concerns over Hermine’s potential impact have already prompted closures in some parts of Florida. Leon, Wakulla, Dixie, and Lafayette County Schools will be closed Thursday and Friday, and the Gulf County Courthouse will close at noon Thursday. The Florida Park Service announced the temporary closure of eight state parks Wednesday afternoon, including Fanning Springs State Park, Lafayette Blue Spring State Park, Manatee Springs State Park, Ochlockonee River State Park, Torreya State Park, St. Andrews State Park, St. George Island State Park, and T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.
Weather concerns also prompted Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine to cancel a planned swing through Northwest Florida this week. Kaine had been scheduled to hold events in Pensacola, Panama City, and Jacksonville.