11 p.m. update: The eye of Matthews continues northward just off the coast of Georgia, bringing storm surge flooding across the north Florida and Georgia coast.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. advisory, Matthew was packing sustained winds of 105 mph as it moved north at 12 mph. Its center was about 70 miles south-southeast of Savannah, Ga. A turn toward toward the north-northeast, then to the northeast is expected Saturday.
Matthew is expected to remain a hurricane while the center is near the coast. According to the forecast, the center of Matthew will continue to move near or over the coast of Georgia through tonight, near or over the coast of South Carolina later tonight and Saturday, and near the coast of southern North Carolina on Saturday night.
Earlier Friday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said dangerous flooding could plague the Jacksonville area for days. “We are very concerned about storm surge and there is potential for significant flooding in Jacksonville,” Scott said at a Friday night briefing in Volusia County. “Flooding in this area could potentially last for days, and river flooding could last even longer.” At least four possible storm-related deaths have been reported in Florida.
• Matthew’s worst shot may be at north end of Florida
Millions of people are under mandatory evacuation orders along the east coast of the United States as emergency response officials watched the hurricane churn its way toward the country.
• Hurricane Matthew: Live updates as storm batters East Coast
UPDATE, 11 p.m.: Hurricane Nicole reached Category 2 as of 11 p.m., with 105 mph maximum sustained winds.
It’s 340 miles south of Bermuda. There are still no coastal watches or warnings associated with Nicole.
Nicole reached hurricane status as of the 2 p.m. advisory today, according to the National Hurricane Center.
NHC forecasters said Nicole, centered about 345 miles south of Bermuda and about 620 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. No coastal watches or warnings are in effect with the storm.
Nicole is moving north-northwest at about 7 mph and is expected to slowly meander and strengthen in the open ocean for the next two days. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 15 miles from the center, with tropical storm-force winds out to about 70 miles.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s 2 a.m. advisory, Matthew is about 295 miles southeast of West Palm Beach. The eye of Matthew nears the central Bahamas and is already bearing down heavy rain and winds about 100 miles south of Nassau.
Matthew is moving northwest at 10 mph, and is expected to make an impact on Palm Beach County late Thursday afternoon. The forecast tract predicts Matthew’s center to pass near Florida’s east coast Thursday night into early Friday morning.
Update 11 p.m.: Hurricane Matthew is 325 southeast of West Palm Beach and is expected to intensify as it approaches Florida.
As of the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. advisory, Matthew was Category 3 storm with winds of 115 mph. However, it is expected to reach Category 4 strength as it moves closer to Florida. The forecast track has Matthew’s center passing near Florida’s east coast Thursday night through Friday night.
A hurricane warning is effect from north of Golden Beach to Fernandina Beach. Matthew’s 11 p.m. position is near latitude 23.4 north, longitude 76.4 west. Matthew is moving toward the northwest near 10 mph, and this general motion is expected to continue tonight and Thursday.
A turn toward the north-northwest is expected Thursday night. On the current forecast track, the center of Matthew should pass near Andros Island and Nassau overnight, then very near the east coast of the Florida peninsula Thursday night through Friday night.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.
Update 8 p.m.: Hurricane Matthew has slightly weakened, but is expected to intensify later tonight and Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
There has been little change from the 5 p.m. advisory,with the center of Matthew to parallel the coast of Florida. Hurricane warnings are in effect from north of Golden Beach to the Flagler/Volusia County line.
Matthew currently has sustained winds of 115 mph, the weather service said.
Update 5 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center has extended tropical storm warnings to the west coast of Florida as the forecast track shifted slightly further west again.
The new forecast track calls for the center of Matthew to parallel the coast of Florida, coming closest between Port Orange and Titusville near midday Friday.
Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center, pleaded for people not to focus on the center of the track or make determinations about whether Matthew will make landfall in Florida.
“When a hurricane is forecast to take a track roughly parallel to a coastline, as Matthew is forecast to do from Florida through South Carolina, it becomes very difficult to specify impacts at any one location,” Feltgen said. “For example, only a small deviation of the track to the left of the NHC forecast could bring the core of a major hurricane onshore within the hurricane warning area in Florida. However, a small deviation to the right could keep the hurricane- force winds offshore. Similarly large variations in impacts are possible in the hurricane watch area in northern Florida and Georgia.”
Update 2 p.m.: Hurricane Matthew has picked up speed and is now heading northwest at 12 mph on a track toward Florida.
As of the 2 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Matthew has 120 mph winds and is 70 miles south of Long Island, Bahamas.
In Palm Beach County, emergency officials are asking people who live in trailer homes and on barrier islands as Matthew approaches.
The evacuation maps are based on storm surge, which could reach between 3 and 6 feet in isolated areas.
But the main threat continues to be damaging winds.
“There is an increasing threat for major-hurricane-force winds along the east coast, especially in Palm Beach County,” said Robert Molleda, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “Certainly we are more concerned today and the event is closing in on us.”
Update 11 a.m.: Powerful Hurricane Matthew continues on a track that parallels Florida’s east coast and is expected to reach Category 4 strength as it approaches, but the path has changed significantly after that.
The National Hurricane Center is showing the storm taking a sharp right at the South Carolina and Georgia coast.
Dan Kottlowski, a hurricane expert with AccuWeather, said some new track models show the storm looping all the way around and coming back to Florida next week.
“There is still a lot of uncertainty, but I want to tell people that there is a chance it could come back,” Kottlowski said. “If it comes back, that’s usually a sign it’s stalling and would be weaker.”
As of the 11 a.m. advisory, Hurricane Matthew was back up to 120 mph winds – a Category 3 storm. The cyclone is about 55 miles north-northeast of Cabo Lucrecia, Cuba and 105 miles south of Long Island, Bahamas.
Update 5 a.m.: The hurricane watch for Florida has been extended north to Fernandina Beach.
Palm Beach County remains under a hurricane warning and forecasters said this morning that hurricane conditions are expected in Florida by late Thursday as the track of Hurricane Matthew has continued to shift west.
The center of powerful Hurricane Matthew is expected to be just 80 miles off the coast of West Palm Beach at about 8 p.m. Thursday on a path that takes the 130 mph storm between Florida and Freeport.
“Hurricane Matthew will pose dangerous and life-threatening conditions, especially along the east coast of South Florida,” National Weather Service forecasters in Miami wrote this morning in their 5 a.m. discussion. “Interests near the coast in Broward and Palm Beach counties will be at a particularly susceptible risk, with the forecast confidence highest for potentially widespread and extensive direct hurricane impacts in these areas.
As of the 5 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Matthew had weakened to a 125 mph Category 3 storm, but is expected to regain strength as it moves through the warm, shallow waters of the Bahamas and should be a Category 4 storm as it approaches Florida.
“Only a small deviation of the track to the left of the NHC forecast could bring the core of a major hurricane onshore, while a small deviation to the right could keep all of the hurricane-force winds offshore,” hurricane center forecasters wrote in the 2 a.m. discussion.
Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast were placed under a hurricane warning at the 11 p.m. advisory, meaning hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours. The warning extends south through Golden Beach.
Forecasters believe Palm Beach County will begin feeling tropical storm conditions early Thursday morning with hurricane conditions by late Thursday.
Although the official NHC forecast continues to keep the center of Hurricane Matthew off the coast of Florida, other meteorologists were concerned late Tuesday that shifts in respected computer models favored a closer scrape or even a landfall in the state.
Update 2 a.m.: Matthew has dropped to category 3, packing 125-mph winds as it continues on the same track toward the Bahamas and the East Coast of the United States with much of the Florida east coast under hurricane warnings and watches. A Hurricane Hunter aircraft found the center of the hurricane north of eastern Cuba.
Matthew was about 35 miles north-northwest of the eastern tip of Cuba and about 80 miles west-southwest of the Bahamas, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 2 a.m. advisory. It was moving north at 8 mph and is expected to strengthen back to category 4 status and bring hurricane conditions to the southeastern Bahamas this morning.
A hurricane warning remains in effect for southeast Florida from Golden Beach to Sebastian Inlet, including Lake Okeechobee. The area north of Sebastian Inlet to the Flagler-Volusia county line is under a hurricane watch. The Florida Keys are under a tropical storm warning.
A turn toward the north-northwest is expected today, followed by a northwest turn tonight. Forecasters expect Matthew to move across the Bahamas tonight and into Thursday. It should be very near the east coast of Florida by Thursday evening.
Some fluctuations in intensity are possible during the next couple of days, but Matthew is expected
to remain a powerful hurricane through at least Thursday night. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 45 miles from the center, while tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 175 miles from the center of the vast, slow-moving storm.
Hurricane conditions are expected in the hurricane warning area of Florida by late Thursday, with tropical storm conditions expected by early Thursday. Tropical storm conditions should reach the tropical storm warning area of Florida by early Thursday.
Projected rainfall from the upper Florida Keys northward to coastal east-central Florida is forecast to be 4 to 7 inches. The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.
There is a danger of life-threatening flooding during the next 36 hours along the Florida east coast from North Palm Beach to the Sebastian Inlet.
11 p.m. update: Matthew’s maximum sustained winds have strengthened to 145 mph as the hurricane’s forecast track continues to drift to the west and closer to South Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. advisory.
The 5-day forecast puts more of South Florida in the cone of uncertainty.
Late Monday, hurricane warnings were in effect Haiti, portions of Cuba, the southeastern Bahamas and the central Bahamas. Tropical storm watches could go into effect for Florida as early as Tuesday morning, forecasters said.
Palm Beach County was given a 64 percent chance of feeling tropical storm-force winds beginning late Wednesday. South Florida has a 15 percent chance of seeing hurricane-force winds, the National Weather Service said.
At 8 p.m., the government of the Bahamas issued a hurricane warning for the Central Bahamas, including Long Island, Exuma, Rum Cay, San Salvador, and Cat Island, and a hurricane watch for the northwestern
Bahamas, including the Abacos, Andros Island, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence.
South Florida remains in Matthew’s path, with its outer bands potentially bringing tropical storm-force winds to the region. Palm Beach County was given a 64 percent chance of feeling tropical storm force winds beginning late Wednesday. Tropical storm conditions could linger through Friday, forecasters from the National Weather Service in Miami said Monday night.
South Florida is given a 15 percent chance of seeing hurricane-force winds, the weather service said.
Update 4:43 p.m.: A significant shift westward in the forecast path of Hurricane Matthew puts South Florida deeper in its potential impact zone.
As of the 5 p.m. advisory, Palm Beach County was given an up to 70 percent chance of feeling tropical storm-force winds beginning late Wednesday.
The chance of hurricane force-winds were increased to 20 percent.
“Direct hurricane impacts are possible in Florida later this week,” hurricane center forecasters noted in key messages released with the 5 p.m. advisory. “Tropical storm and/or hurricane watches could be issued sometime tonight or early tomorrow for portions of the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys.”
Update 4:20 p.m. Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in every county in Florida ahead of Hurricane Matthew.
“Hurricane Matthew is a life-threatening Category 4 hurricane and we must all take it seriously,” Scott said. “We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.”
Update 2 p.m.: Hurricane Matthew continues to have wind speeds of 140 mph as it heads north at 6 mph toward Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm is about 195 miles southeast of Kingston, Jamaica and 250 miles southwest of Port Au Prince, Haiti.
The updated forecast track has pushed slightly to the west, skimming Palm Beach County through Jacksonville. That means the chances of tropical storm force winds for some coastal areas of Florida from Palm Beach County north are between 30 and 40 percent.
Update 11 a.m.: Hurricane Matthew increased in strength to 140 mph winds as of the 11 a.m. advisory and is expected to bring life-threatening rain, wind and storm surge to Haiti.
Already, the Associated Press reported is reporting that two fishermen died in storm-whipped seas churned up by Hurricane Matthew.
Haiti could get several feet of rain – up to 40 inches in isolated areas – and the National Hurricane Center is warning of dangerous flash flooding and mudslides.
Palm Beach County’s emergency operations center has ramped up to a level 3 activation and officials are asking residents not to let their guard down as Hurricane Matthew moves north.
Palm Beach County has a 30 to 40 percent chance of feeling tropical storm force wind with the worst of the weather beginning late Wednesday.
Bill Johnson, director of the county’s emergency center, said a level 3 activation means the office is in an enhanced monitoring situation and watching the storm closely.
“Whether or not we are in the cone, I don’t think that makes a darn bit of difference,” Johnson said this morning. “This is a major storm and all it takes is a little wobble to the west and we could have the potential of a potent hurricane on our doorstep.”
Johnson said people should be checking their hurricane preparation plans and supplies today. But it’s not time for shutters or plywood just yet.
“If you haven’t done so already, you need to be reviewing your hurricane plan, reviewing the contents of your disaster kit and staying informed,” Johnson said. “The forecast models continue to have this windshield wiper effect and I don’t think anyone should let their guard down.”
The U.S. Coast Guard is asking boaters to stay off the water and ready for evacuation of live-aboard vessels if necessary.
“Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate or rescue those in danger during the storm,” a press release says.
Update 8 a.m.: Dangerous Hurricane Matthew, which had top sustained wind speeds of 130 mph at 8 a.m., will reach Jamaica and Haiti tonight and eastern Cuba on Tuesday.
Eastern Cuba and western Haiti could get up to 12 inches of rain with isolated areas seeing up to 20 inches. Hurricane warnings are in effect for Jamaica, Haiti, the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Gramma and Las Tunas. The southeastern Bahamas is also under a hurricane warning.
“This could be catastrophic for some places, particularly Haiti,” National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen told USA Today. “This is an area where trees just don’t exist (due to deforestation). The terrain is stripped and the threat of major flash floods and mudslides is very real.”
Government officials in Jamaica ominously warned Sunday that the country cannot handle what Matthew is bringing.
Matthew has continued to wobble along its forecast path with its center now predicted to move through the Central Bahamas beginning late Tuesday and be far off the coast of Palm Beach County Thursday night.
But, the forecast cone was edged west at the 5 a.m. advisory, so that it now skims Palm Beach County and any toggle to the west could put more of South Florida inside the cone.
At 2 a.m. Thursday, hurricane center forecasters expect Matthew’s center to be just west of Nassau with 120 mph winds. By 2 a.m. Friday it is expected to be just northwest of Freeport with 120 mph winds.
“Although the official forecast continues to show a track east of Florida, it is still too soon to rule out possible hurricane impacts there,” the NHC wrote. “It is also too soon to know whether, or how, Matthew might affect the remainder of the United States east coast.”
Even if center of #Matthew stays within our cone, which isn’t guaranteed, dangerous wind and water hazards could extend far outside the cone
Tropical Depression Julia, which was downgraded from a tropical storm over the weekend, is expected to move north overnight onto the southeastern North Carolina coast.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Karl is expected to increase in strength both tonight and Monday, possibly reaching hurricane strength by Thursday. However, landfall isn’t in Karl’s forecast at any time in the next five days.
Finally, a third system, a large low-pressure area, is off the coast of Africa, nearing the Cape Verde Islands. This system has a 50 percent chance of formation in the next two days, and an 80 percent chance in the next five, forecasters say.
None of these systems are expected to impact Florida over the next few days.
Forecasters still expect an area of low pressure to form into a tropical depression on Sunday or Monday, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The system has been given an 80 percent chance to develop in the next two days and a 90 percent chance in the next five days. It’s projected to follow the same path as Hurricane Gaston, which moved into the central Atlantic Ocean without presenting any problems to land.
If this storm gets a name, it would be called Ian.
Two other systems are much closer to Florida but are not likely to form into anything.
There is an area of low pressure north of Puerto Rico, which is tracking toward unfavorable atmospheric conditions and has a 10 percent chance to form in the next five days.
Another system is south of Florida and also only has a 10 percent chance for development as it quietly drifts into the Gulf of Mexico.
While the system is 3,600 miles from Miami, it is still worth watching considering the meteorological peak of hurricane season is Sept. 10.
It’s far too early to tell what kind of threat this system could possibly pose.
Jeff Masters, former NOAA Hurricane Hunter and co-founder of Weather Underground, said it will battle Saharan dust and is on a path that could take it out into the Atlantic.
“The long-range models are showing a west-northwesterly track for this storm into the Central Atlantic to a location where few storms ever become a threat to the Lesser Antilles Islands or North America,” Masters wrote in his blog.
Hermine is about 30 miles west-southwest of Wilmington, N.C., the hurricane center said. Forecasters warned that a dangerous surge threatens Hampton Roads in southeast Virginia. Hermine is moving northeast at 22 mph.
Forecasters said the system could regain hurricane strength by Monday morning off the Maryland-Delaware coast before weakening again as it moves north. Tropical storm watches and warnings are posted up and down the coastline.
Earlier, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency for the Eastern Shore and southern Maryland. Hogan said in a statement that he signed the order in anticipation of heavy rains, strong winds and flooding.
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott took to the air to survey damage caused by Hurricane Hermine.
Scott used a Blackhawk helicopter to visit Cedar Key and Steinhatchee on the Gulf Coast. He saw the damage left from flooding and storm surge, including crumpled docks and washed-out homes and businesses.
The governor lamented that the restaurants and other places would not be able to take advantage of the Labor Day weekend.
Scott pledged that businesses would be eligible for help from the state. But it’s unclear whether Florida will get any federal disaster assistance as the state begins to clean up from the storm. More from The Associated Press
5 p.m. update: Tropical Storm Hermine is about 30 miles southwest of Charleston, S.C., and moving northeast at 20 mph, according to National Hurricane Center’s latest advisory. Maximum sustained winds are 50 mph.
The tropical storm warning has been extended northward from Fenwick Island, Del., to Sandy Hook, N.J., including Delaware Bay. The tropical storm warning has been discontinued south of Altamaha
The National Hurricane Center predicts it would regain hurricane strength after emerging in the Atlantic Ocean. The system could then lash coastal areas as far north as Connecticut and Rhode Island through Labor Day.
“Anyone along the U.S. East Coast needs to be paying close attention this weekend,” Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center, told The Associated Press.
Earlier today, Hermine wiped away beachside buildings and toppled trees onto homes before plowing inland on a path that could send it rolling up the densely populated East Coast with heavy rain, high winds and flooding.
Gov. Rick Scott declared an emergency in 51 counties and said about 6,000 National Guardsmen stood ready to mobilize for the storm’s aftermath. The governors of Georgia and North Carolina also declared emergencies.
In south Georgia, Hermine flooded roads and sent trees crashing into homes and power lines, cutting electricity to more than 100,000 customers as the storm roared inland.
4 p.m. update: As Hermine moves closer to the Atlantic coast, the wind is becoming less of a concern, but the threat of heavy rain and tornadoes has risen.
Most National Weather Service stations across the eastern half of South Carolina are reporting sustained wind speeds between 20-25 mph, with one near Columbia recording sustained 33 mph wind shortly after 4 p.m.
3:20 p.m. update: As Tropical Storm Hermine heads through the heart of South Carolina, forecasters there are calling for a swath of 5-7 inches of rain over the next 24 hours, with 2-5 inches expected across the state’s coast.
Elsewhere, the storm has already dumped several inches of rain across the Carolinas, with more on the way.
1:50 p.m. update: Tropical Storm Hermine, steaming northeast at about 18 mph, is heading into the low country of South Carolina, bringing an expected 5-10 inches of rain with it, according to forecasters.
In the National Hurricane Center’s 2 p.m. update, Hermine was centered about 30 miles north-northwest of Savannah, Ga., and had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. Winds of tropical storm force extended outward up to 175 miles, mostly to the storm’s east.
Tropical storm conditions are expected to spread along the Atlantic coast through Saturday, and forecasters warned of the possibility of life-threatening storm surge inundantion along the coast from the North Carolina-Virginia border up to Bridgeport, Conn., in the next two days.
The storm, blamed for one death in Florida, is expected to cross into the Atlantic, likely along the North Carolina coast, sometime during the day Saturday. From there, forecasters predict Hermine will continue moving northeast into the Atlantic and strengthen to some degree for a day or so.
At that point, forecasters expect the storm will interact with a front. While Hermine is forecast to begin losing some tropical characteristics, it has the potential to remain strong, though the forecast track remains highly uncertain.
Tropical storm warnings are posted from the Florida-Georgia border all the way up to almost New Jersey, with watches in effect northward to Rhode Island.
1 p.m. update: Though Valdosta, Ga., was prepared for the worst of what Hermine had to offer, officials there said this afternoon they had received no reports of major injuries or widespread damage.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Hermine had left Valdosta by 11 a.m. and about 20,000 people would be without power for a day or two.
“We ducked the big one,” Paige Dukes, spokeswoman for the Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency told AJC.com.
The area around Valdosta received about six inches of rain, with the storm sending a few hundred trees crashing down, some into houses and cars. But officials say the area escaped with relatively minor impacts.
In Florida, the cleanup remains an ongoing task as well.
11 a.m. update: Gov. Rick Scott said in a news conference Friday morning that a homeless man died in Ocala after Hermine’s winds caused a tree to fall on top of him.
The director of Marion County Emergency Management said to the Ocala Star Banner that the man was sleeping under a tent when the tree fell. His body was discovered around 7:30 a.m. while people started to go to work.
No other details have been released.
In its 11 a.m. update, the National Hurricane Center said Hermine is moving northeast at 18 mph with top sustained winds of 50 mph.
9 a.m. update: With Tropical Storm Hermine now in Georgia, the Tampa and Orlando areas are still experiencing heavy rainfall and winds from the storm’s outer bands.
The National Hurricane Center reported in the 8 a.m. update that Hermine is moving at 14 mph over southern Georgia with 60 mph sustained winds. It is expected to restrengthen when it reaches the Atlantic near the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
In Tampa, the storm caused major street flooding and community power outages. Many families had to be evacuated after water flooded through their homes and trees knocked down power lines.
The University of Southern Florida’s power has been restored but the campus remains closed today. The school plans to reopen on Saturday.
The Orlando area also felt the effects of Hermine with minor flooding and broken tree branches. Several power outages were reported, but the area did not experience as much flooding or structural damage.
The University of Central Florida opened their campus today and did not experience any power outages.
In Apalachicola, which spent a long day and night as Hurricane Hermine’s likely target, Friday brought good news: There was little damage.
“I’ve seen summer thunderstorms that did more damage, the kind that just sit over the city and rain,” said Don Lindsley, who owns an art gallery in the Apalachicola’s historic district. “We were lucky the storm shifted east of us.”
Sandbagged doorways and TV news crews were about the only remaining signs of Hermine’s visit. The sun was shining by early morning, and the large pools of standing water that covered city roads and lots were mostly gone.
Palm fronds littered yards, while utility trucks and clean-up crews jammed U.S. 98 heading east to where downed trees and power outages marred many communities, including Tallahassee.
In Tallahassee, many communities also experienced flooding and power outages from fallen trees. Florida State University still has no power, and stated in a twitter post that 70 percent of the city is without power and they do not know when it will be restored.
CAMPUS POWER UPDATE. @COTutilities cannot say for certain when power will be restored to campus, but we're hoping it will be sometime today.
The National Hurricane Center’s 4 a.m. position update showed maximum sustained winds at 75 mph, just above hurricane status. Hermine is weakening as it moves into southern Georgia, forecasters say. It was centered about 35 miles west-southwest of Valdosta, moving north-northeast near 14 mph.
FPL shows that 11,530 customers are without power, but it has been as high as 43,000. The hardest hit counties for electricity failure besides Leon, were Columbia, Suwanee and Sarasota. FPL does not supply power to Tallahassee.
3:30 a.m. update: The National Hurricane Center’s 3 a.m. position update put Hermine 25 miles east of Tallahassee, still moving north-northeast at 14 mph. Maximum sustained winds remain 80 mph.
The outages account for about 60 percent of the city’s utility customers, the newspaper reports. Utility crews must wait for winds to drop below 30 mph before working on restoring service.
2 a.m. update: Packing 80-mph winds, the category 1 Hurricane Hermine made landfall east of St. Marks early this morning, marking the first Florida landfall since Wilma in 2005.
The National Hurricane Center said the official landfall came at 1:30 a.m. Forecasters are warning of the possibility of a life-threatening storm surge and flooding from heavy rains from the storm.
At 2 a.m., Hermine was centered about 35 miles southeast of Tallahassee and was moving north-northeast near 14 mph. The hurricane is expected to weaken to a tropical storm before hitting Georgia and the Carolinas, then heading up the East Coast with the potential for heavy rain and deadly flooding.
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, which hadn’t been hit by a hurricane since Kate in 1985.
Wilma, the last hurricane to strike Florida, was a powerful Category 3 storm that hit 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.
Although an inland capital, Tallahassee was suffering the worst of Hurricane Hermine’s aftermath Friday, with downed trees scattered across the city and power out to 60 percent of residents and businesses.
Even Rick Scott’s Governor’s Mansion took a hit from Hermine – with a cracked oak tree on the grounds blocking a road just in back of the residence.
The sound of chainsaws buzzed through the city, and traffic was slowed with scores of traffic lights out of commission. With few city work or utility crews in sight, many residents feared it might be days before power is restored.
“Last night, we had a lot of wind and rain, but really nothing dramatic,” said Tarik Noriega, whose Myers Park neighborhood was littered with downed trees.
Along U.S. 98, the ribbon of highway that hugs the Gulf of Mexico, there was evidence of the storm surge that accompanied the hurricane-force winds. While seaweed and even wood from a few shattered boat docks were pushed to the road’s edge, waterfront homes didn’t seem to suffer severe structural damage.
“We did pretty well,” said Bonnie Goodwin, cleaning up yard debris in the St. James community, just across the highway from the gulf. “We’re pretty exposed here to the wind and water. But it was a good night not to have a waterfront home.”
Not far away, the waterside Lanark Market also endured no flooding. Owner Carson Ulrich had said Thursday that he fully expected the storm to flood his convenience store. But a day later, store employee Deborah Scanlan said Hermine’s shift east made the difference.
“We watched the water come up,” she said, pointing at a nearby boat ramp. “But it never came up into the store. We were lucky.”
At Alligator Point, a Franklin County community of vacation homes for many Tallahasseeans, the road washed out with storm surge. Residents were forced to walk or bicycle in to the point of land to check on the status of their homes.
“The house is OK,” said Hugh Hartsfield, a computer systems engineer who rode out the storm at his home. “But I could tell with that surge the road was going to go. It did. It’ll be a while before we can get our cars back in here.”
Dean Newman, a retiree, left Alligator Point for Tallahassee when he knew the storm was coming.
“I’ve been here before and stuck out here for four days without power,” Newman said. “But I tell you, it was bad in Tallahassee. Maybe worse than here.”