Tropical Storm Hermine will likely strengthen into a hurricane by the time it makes landfall, according to a prediction by the National Hurricane Center.
The storm, currently in the Gulf of Mexico, is projected to make landfall in Florida. If it becomes a hurricane, it would be the first to hit the state since Wilma in 2005. The center of the storm is expected to be near the Florida coast by early Friday.
Residents along the Gulf Coast, pounded by heavy rain on Wednesday in advance of the storm, should be prepared for flooding and storm surges, as Hermine could bring up to 10 inches of rain, or 20 inches in isolated areas, the hurricane center said.
“It is crucial that every Floridian has a plan in place to ensure their families, homes and businesses are fully prepared,” Gov. Rick Scott said in declaring the state of emergency for 51 of the state’s 67 counties.
Hermine is moving north-northeast at 12 miles per hour, but is expected to gain speed through Thursday. Strong winds from the storm are expected to reach the Florida coast in the panhandle region beginning Thursday night, the hurricane center said. It also warned of dangerous storm surge and flooding along the Gulf Coast that could be life threatening from Aripeka to Indian Pass, which is located in central Florida about 50 miles north of Tampa.
Rising waters could reach up to one to seven feet above ground in certain areas.
Forecasts call for the storm to cross Florida before continuing northeast along the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas.
As of early Thursday, the storm was about 250 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola and 275 miles southwest of Tampa, according to the National