For the first time in more than a decade, a hurricane is hitting Florida.
Hurricane Hermine, a Category 1 storm with 80-mile-per-hour winds hit St. Marks early this morning and has moved inland where it was downgraded to a tropical storm. Warning of the dangers posed by the high winds, downed trees and power outages, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called a state of emergency for 51 counties and urged residents to take shelter.
"You can rebuild a home, you can rebuild property, you cannot rebuild a life," Governor Scott said at a news conference Thursday afternoon, adding "we are going to see a lot of flooding."
St. Marks has seen significant flooding and storm surges along the coast caused waves up to 12 feet. Tallahassee, which has not been affected by a hurricane since 1985, is expected to get up to 10 inches of rain. The majority of the flooding caused by hurricane Hermine, however, is expected to occur along the sparsely populated Big Bend coastline, where the Panhandle meets the peninsula.
Rescue teams are being deployed in areas particularly affected by the flooding, including Pasco County, where authorities say 18 people were forced to leave their homes to escape floodwaters. According to Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, no major damages or injuries have been reported by the rescue crews, although they still have a lot of ground to cover.
Following a period of above-average hurricane activity in the region, Florida experienced a decade of hurricane-free weather from hurricane Wilma in 2005 to Friday when hurricane Hermine hit. Previously the longest stretch in time Florida had gone without a hurricane was five years – from 1980 to 1984. In an age of increasingly frequent and highly destructive storms, this was a bit of a scientific anomaly.
"Florida has been very, very lucky," Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist with Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project, told the Herald-Tribune in 2014. "Hopefully that luck will continue." Mr. Klotzbach also said that in those 10 years, 61 hurricanes formed in the Atlantic and that the odds of Florida missing them, all was 1,150 to 1.
Hermine moved into Georgia at 5 a.m. on Friday and, although it is losing strength, it is expected to cause flooding further up the East Coast as well. The governors in Georgia and North Carolina have issued states of emergency as the storm is slated to continue to pound the area through Friday night before moving further north.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.