Florida is bracing itself for the first hurricane to hit the Sunshine State in 11 years as tropical storm Hermine was officially upgraded to Category 1 after maximum wind speeds reached 75 mph (120 kph). Forecasters believe the storm, which is moving at a speed of just 14 mph, will come ashore on the Gulf Coast between Tallahassee and Tampa Bay before heading up to Georgia and the Carolinas over Labor Day Weekend.
Florida State governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 51 counties and said 8,000 state troopers were ready to be deployed if required. "'The most important thing we all must put in our minds is that this is life threatening," said Governor Scott. "We have not had a hurricane in years, people have moved here and we have visitors." Georgia Governor Nathan Deal also has declared a state of emergency, the BBC is reporting.
Storm surges could reach as high as seven feet and there could be up to 10 inches of rain, or 20 inches in exposed areas, forecasters are predicting. The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned of "life-threatening inundation" (Reuters).
Tornadoes are possible and tides will also be extremely dangerous. Residents and businesses in the predicted path of Hermine have been boarding up windows in preparation for the hurricane and schools and offices in the Tampa area have been closed.
The last hurricane to hit Florida was Wilma, in 2005, which had wind speeds of up to 175 mph and which killed five people in the state and 62 in total. The same year Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, killing around 1,250 people.
Hermine is the fourth Category 1 storm to hit the Atlantic Basin in 2016. Meanwhile on the other side of America Hurricane Madeline has now been downgraded to a tropical storm after wind speeds dropped to 70 mph. Forecasters are still warning of the danger of flash flooding in parts of Hawaii.