(ORLANDO) — Florida is expected to get drenched this Labor Day Weekend, as Tropical Storm Hermine grows stronger and is forecast to make landfall as a hurricane.
“This is life-threatening,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a news conference Thursday, “we have not had a hurricane in years.”
“So many people have moved to our state and we always have visitors,” Scott added, as he urged Floridians to prepare and reiterated, “This storm is life-threatening.”
The governor added that they were preparing for significant storm surge, significant winds, downed power lines, heavy rain, and flooding.
Portions of five counties in Florida — Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor, Dixie, and Levy — have mandatory evacuations, Gov. Scott said, urging residents to take the evacuations seriously.
Hermine is heading for the north Florida Gulf Coast, according to the National Hurricane Center, and a potentially life-threatening storm surge and flooding rains are expected.
“Right now we’re urging people in affected areas to listen to the direction of state and local officials. We also have FEMA personnel deployed to the emergency operations center in Florida to help coordinate any requests for federal assistance,” Rafael Lemaitre, a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesperson, said in statement.
FEMA has also deployed a rapid response incident management assessment team to Florida, according to Lemaitre.
A hurricane warning is in effect in Florida from the Suwannee River to Mexico Beach, and a hurricane watch is currently in effect from the Anclote River to the Suwannee River and west of Mexico Beach to the Walton/Bay County line in Florida.
Meanwhile, a tropical storm warning is in effect for Marineland to Surf City.
Hermine is expected to make landfall in Florida late Thursday night or early Friday morning. Mexico Beach and St. Marks may see occasional wind gusts of over 75 miles per hour and very heavy rain. Further inland, tornado warnings are also in effect over north Florida and southeast Georgia.
Hermine is located about 220 miles west-southwest of Tampa and moving north-northeast at around 14 miles per hour, as of Thursday morning. It has maximum sustained winds near 65 miles per hour and is forecast to become a hurricane.
Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott directed all state offices in 51 counties to close at noon Thursday in preparation for Tropical Storm Hermine.
“Today, in preparation for Tropical Storm Hermine, I have ordered the closure of state offices and buildings in 51 counties at noon. Our employees work very hard and their safety is of the upmost importance,” Gov. Scott said in a statement. “Our State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) and State Emergency Response Team (SERT) are in constant communication with local communities and stand ready to respond to any impacts. As we prepare for this storm to impact Florida, I will be at the SEOC in Tallahassee to closely monitor the storm’s development and will continue to provide regular updates on Tropical Storm Hermine and the state’s preparedness efforts.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Scott urged “all Floridians to get a plan and prepare for severe weather.”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency in 56 counties on Thursday, and lasting through midnight on Saturday. “We are working to ensure counties in south, central and coastal Georgia have access to the state resources necessary to prepare and respond when Tropical Storm Hermine enters Georgia,” Deal said in a statement. “Our Emergency Operations Command will continue closely monitoring this storm and additional counties may be included in this declaration as needed.”
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