Hurricane Warning For Parts Of Florida As Hermine Strengthens

HURRICANETropical Storm Hermine picked up strength and was expected to be a hurricane when it reached Florida’s north Gulf Coast on Thursday evening, bringing heavy rains and high winds that forecasters warned could cause catastrophic flooding.

With as much as 20 inches (51 cm) of rain expected, schools in several Florida coastal counties were closed on Thursday and some low-lying areas already have seen floods from Hermine. After battering the coast, the storm is expected to move across the northern part of the state and then barrel toward southern U.S. coastal regions on the Atlantic.

‚ÄúTake this storm seriously,” said Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency to free up state resources to battle the storm, with 49 of Florida’s 67 counties covered by the declaration.

As of 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the storm was about 195 miles off the Florida coast and packing maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph). In addition to heavy rains, it was expected to cause isolated tornadoes and bring storm surges of up to 6 feet (1.8 meters), the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
“There is a danger of life-threatening inundation within the next 36 hours along the Gulf coast of Florida,” it said.

Large parts of Florida’s panhandle coast were under a hurricane warning, while flash flood watches stretched from Florida into South Carolina.

On its current path, the storm also could dump as much as 10 inches (25 cm) of rain on coastal areas of Georgia, which was under a tropical storm watch, and the Carolinas.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal on Thursday signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency for 56 counties that extends through midnight on Saturday.

A tropical storm warning also was issued for the U.S. East Coast from Marineland, Florida, to South Santee River, South Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said.

U.S. oil and gas producers removed workers from 10 offshore platforms in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico, moved drilling rigs and shut some output because of the storm.

As of Thursday morning, the storm had not caused any major disruption to U.S. air travel, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.

Obama declares state of emergency on areas affected by storm

The president of the United States, Barack Obama, has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, following the Storm Isaac that threatened to hit the area.

According to the BBC reports, Isaac is heading for New Orleans, possibly as early as Tuesday night, nearly seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Isaac killed at least 24 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The storm also caused flooding and damage in the Caribbean.

Late on Monday, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned Isaac could reach category two strength, with top winds of 100mph (160km/h). The forecast was revised up from category one.

President Obama approved Louisiana’s request for a federal disaster declaration, making available federal funds for recovery activities such as clearing debris.

The governors of Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama declared emergencies in their states.

The Republican governors of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have cancelled their trips to their party’s convention to focus on disaster prevention efforts.

The weather officials warned that Isaac is already a large storm and could bring significant damage to areas within hundreds of miles of its center.

The NHC said that at 20:00 EDT (20:00 GMT) on Monday, Isaac was centered about 230 miles (370km) south-east of the mouth of the Mississippi river, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 70mph (110km/h).

The storm is moving forward at about 10mph and storm winds extend out about 205 miles from the center.

The NHC warned that wind speeds could reach between 96-110mph before the storm makes landfall.

Evacuations have already been ordered for some low-lying Louisiana parishes and parts of coastal Alabama.

Wednesday will be the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which strengthened in the Gulf to a category five storm, before weakening to category three by the time it reached New Orleans.

Federal officials said the levees around New Orleans are now equipped to handle storms stronger than Isaac.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, “It’s a much more robust system than what it was when Katrina came ashore,”

Fugate also said that Isaac was not just a New Orleans storm.

“This is a Gulf Coast storm. Some of the heaviest impact may be in Alabama and Mississippi,” he said.

Vehicles were left at New Orleans on the highway heading west for Baton Rouge on Monday, as people made their way to higher ground.

A hurricane warning is already in effect for some 300 miles of the Gulf Coast in four states from Louisiana to Florida, with lower-level warnings issued for many areas along Florida’s west coast.

Governor Rick Scott of Florida said 60,000 people were already without power as a result of the storm.