Tropical Storm Hermine has strengthened into a hurricane, threatening to bring a dangerous storm surge to Florida.Hermine is expected to make landfall on the northern Florida Gulf Coast early on Friday – the first hurricane to hit the state since 2005.
Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 51 counties as residents were braced for the dangerous storm. Wind gusts reached 80mph (130kmph) on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
“This is life threatening. We have not had a hurricane in years,” Governor Scott said. He added that 8,000 members of the Florida National Guard were prepared to be deployed in the wake of the storm.
Mr Scott ordered evacuations in five counties in Florida’s north-west and called for voluntary evacuations in three other coastal counties. The city of St Petersburg near Tampa was littered with downed palm fronds and tree branches, and low-lying streets were flooded.
Power cuts have hit thousands of homes in north Florida. Weather officials predict Hermine will also hit Georgia and the Carolinas, and could bring heavy rains along the East Coast in the coming days.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal also has declared a state of emergency for 56 counties. The last hurricane to strike Florida was Wilma in 2005, which made landfall in the US the same year as Katrina and caused five deaths and an estimated $23bn (£17bn) of damage.(BBC,2016)