(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Hermine brought strong winds and flooding to a wide swath of Florida’s Gulf coast early Friday, knocking out power to more than 150,000 and raising fears of additional damage as the storm swept across the state.
The tropical system that spun off the warm waters of the Gulf whipped up 80 mph winds that extended out 45 mph from the eye.
Less severe but still dangerous tropical storm-force winds spanned several hundred miles as the storm barreled inland over a section of Florida’s coast that stretched from Tampa to the barrier islands south of Pensacola.
Dangerous rip currents, high seas and minor coastal flooding threaten an even larger area of Florida’s coast.
Hermine made landfall at 1:30 a.m., becoming the first hurricane to hit Florida in 11 years, since Hurricane Wilma struck the sunshine state in 2005.
The last hurricane to make landfall in the United States was Hurricane Arthur in 2014 — a Category 2 Storm that came ashore in North Carolina.
More than 150,000 customers across the affected area have already lost power, notably in Tallahassee, where local ABC affiliate WTXL reported more than 70,000 outages and residents posted pictures of a blackout at Florida State University.
Hundreds of schools and government offices announced closures as the state braced for the storm’s full impact on Friday.
In addition to the hurricane-force winds, forecasters said the storm could bring “life-threatening inundation within the next 12 to 24 hours along the Gulf coast of Florida.”
Storm surges may have reached high as 9 feet, and the region will be blanketed with 5 to 10 inches of rain in total, with maximum amounts of as much as 15 inches falling in isolated areas. The city of Cedar Key recorded a record-high storm surge of 5.8 feet.
“These rains may cause life-threatening floods,” the National Hurricane Center said. As much as 10 of precipitation inches is expected from Florida up to North Carolina, while the mid-Atlantic region to as far north as New Jersey are forecast to be hit with heavy rains by Saturday.
The system will also increase the risk of a tornado outbreak across northern Florida and southern Georgia. Tornadoes in tropical systems typically are brief, but can be very destructive.
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