The Latest: More Florida counties in storm emergency zone

Photo: AP

August 31, 2016 05:53 PM

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — The Latest on tropical weather systems threatening Hawaii and the Southeast (all times Hawaii local):

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1:30 p.m.

Florida's governor has added nine more counties to a state of emergency declaration as Tropical Storm Hermine approaches the Gulf Coast.

Scott said in a news release Wednesday that Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Manatee, Osceola and Sarasota counties are now covered by his emergency order. That brings the total to 51 counties.

Hermine developed into a tropical storm earlier Wednesday with sustained winds of 45 mph. The National Hurricane Center predicts the storm will come ashore as early as Thursday night along Florida's upper Gulf Coast, possibly as a hurricane.

Scott says the emergency declaration eases access to disaster resources and funding, streamlines decision-making and allows the state to seek federal assistance.


11:50 a.m.

The National Weather Service has downgraded a previously issued hurricane warning for Hawaii's Big Island.

The alert regarding Hurricane Madeline was dropped Wednesday to a tropical storm warning.

There's also a warning for Maui County over the next 24 hours.

Madeline was downgraded to the lowest hurricane level early Wednesday and is expected to weaken even more to a tropical storm as it passes to the south of the Big Island.

The eye of the storm is about 95 miles southeast of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Ed Teixeira (tuh-SHEHR'-uh) says surf is building, and the waves outside Hilo Harbor were about 12 feet high,

Meanwhile, Hurricane Lester was about 1,000 miles from Hawaii and expected to drop to a tropical storm by Sunday.


11 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Tropical Storm Hermine (her-MEEN) is gaining strength as it rumbles toward Florida's Gulf Coast.

Forecasters say Hermine's top sustained winds have risen to 45 mph (75 kph) and the storm is now centered about 325 miles (525 kilometers) south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida.

Forecasters say Hermine could be near hurricane strength by Thursday night as it approaches the Gulf Coast. Authorities say they've extended a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning from the Anclote River northwest of Tampa to Destin in the Florida Panhandle.

A tropical storm warning also continues on the Atlantic seaboard from Marineland, Florida, to the Altamaha Sound in Georgia.


10:40 a.m.

Intermittent, heavy rain has fallen in Hawaii ahead of what could be the first hurricane to hit the island in a quarter-century.

The rain fell overnight and early Wednesday then stopped, leaving just a slight wind.

Residents took precautions to protect themselves and their belonging from Hurricane Madeline.

Hilo resident Olivia Guerrero used tape to reinforce her apartment windows amid uncertainty about the storm.

The National Weather Service said Madeline had weakened but remained on track to hit Hawaii's Big Island early Thursday.

Officials urged residents to expect hurricane conditions and to take steps to protect themselves and their property.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Lester was about 1,000 miles from Hawaii and expected to drop to a tropical storm by Sunday.


!0:45 a.m.

North Carolina's governor is warning residents to closely monitor a tropical storm that could bring severe weather to the coast this weekend after passing through Florida.

Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement on Wednesday noting that the current forecast path for Tropical Storm Hermine shows it could move along the coast of the Carolinas on Friday and Saturday.

McCrory says it's too soon to predict what impact the storm could have, but he wants people to be cautious.

The governor says that if current forecasts hold, areas along the state's coast could get several inches of rain.

Hermine is currently churning in the Gulf of Mexico west of Florida.


8 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Hermine (her-MEEN) has formed from a system swirling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Miami-based center says a hurricane hunter plane has determined that a tropical depression strengthened Wednesday into the named storm and Hermine now boasts top sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph).

It says Hermine is centered about 415 miles (665 kilometers) west-southwest of Tampa, Florida and is drifting at 2 mph (4 kph) toward the north.

The center says the tropical storm should turn more toward the northeast with increasing speed on Thursday and is on a forecast track that would approach the northwest Florida coast about Thursday afternoon.


7:35 a.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for 42 counties ahead of an expected landfall by a tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico.

"By declaring a state of emergency in advance of this storm, we are ensuring that state, regional and local agencies can work together to meet the needs of our communities," Scott said in a statement Wednesday.

Scott says the declaration eases access to disaster resources and funding and allows the state to seek federal assistance.

The storm is currently a tropical depression though the National Weather Service says it is expected to strengthen in coming hours.

The storm is forecast to eventually hit north of the Tampa Bay area, a region already beset by heavy rain and thunderstorms.


7:30 a.m.

The National Park Service says it will close Georgia's Cumberland Island to visitors ahead of a tropical system expected to eventually approach the state's Atlantic coast.

The Park Service said in a news release the island will close Thursday afternoon and won't reopen until Saturday morning. The barrier island is home to roughly 15 miles of federally protected wilderness. The decision comes as the busy Labor Day weekend approaches.

Cumberland Island is reachable only by boat and ferry service will shut down during the closure.

The National Hurricane Center has placed the southern half of Georgia's 100-mile coast under a tropical storm watch. A tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico is forecast to strengthen and cross northern Florida and southeast Georgia between late Thursday and Friday.


7:25 a.m.

Drier air and strong upper atmosphere winds are weakening Hurricane Madeline as it approaches Hawaii.

Central Pacific Hurricane Center forecaster Tom Evans says the storm no longer has the strong, noticeable eye that was seen Tuesday.

Madeline was 140 miles southeast of the Big Island city of Hilo early Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, slower than Tuesday's 120 mph winds.

The storm is on track to skirt or hit the island's southern edge, an area of ranches, small towns and Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park.

Evans says the area could see hurricane-strength winds of up to 80 mph. He noted that even tropical storm-force winds downed trees and power lines when Tropical Storm Iselle hit two years ago.

He says heavy rains could lead to flooding and large surf could damage coastlines.


6:40 a.m.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for the southern half of Georgia's 100-mile coast and a stretch of north Florida's Atlantic region.

The National Hurricane Center issued the watch Tuesday morning for coastal portions of southeast Georgia and northeast Florida. It means tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours from south of Darien, Georgia, to St. Augustine, Florida.

The watch area includes the Georgia cities of Brunswick and St. Marys.

A tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico is forecast to strengthen to a tropical storm before making landfall Thursday night or Friday morning along the northwest coast of Florida. The storm is expected to cross northern Florida and southeast Georgia on Friday.

The hurricane center says coastal Georgia could get 4 to 7 inches of rain, with up to 10 inches possible in some areas.


6 a.m.

Forecasters say a tropical depression has virtually stalled in the Gulf of Mexico but is expected to strengthen and then begin crawling toward Florida's Gulf coast.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the depression is located about 415 miles (665 kilometers) west-southwest of Tampa, Florida, with top sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph).

A hurricane watch is in effect from Florida's Anclote River just northwest of Tampa to Indian Pass in the Florida Panhandle and a tropical storm warning is in effect elsewhere from the Anclote River to the Walton Bay County line. Authorities say a tropical storm watch also has been issued for the Atlantic coast from Marineland, Florida, to Altamaha Sound, Georgia.

Meanwhile, a tropical depression that skirted by North Carolina's Outer Banks overnight is now moving northeastward further out into the Atlantic. The tropical depression could become a tropical storm later Wednesday though no coastal warnings and watches are in effect for it.


4 a.m.

Florida officials urged residents to pay attention to a tropical depression that's expected to head toward the state's Gulf Coast.

Bryan Koon, the director of the state's Division of Emergency Management, said at a news conference Tuesday morning that the storm in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to strengthen.

"Tomorrow night is going to be a significant issue since it is going to pass through North/Central Florida," he said. "By the close of business today I expect this to be named storm and for us to be locked and ready."

While parts of the Gulf Coast near Tampa saw heavy rain Wednesday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said people should be prepared for the worst.

"Our teams state wide and locally are ready. This state knows what to do," Scott said.


3:20 a.m.

An emergency management official says North Carolina's Outer Banks were spared from a tropical weather system that had been moving toward the state for two days.

Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson writes in an email that the tropical depression resulted in "no impacts" on areas such as Cape Hatteras.

A hotel manager on Ocracoke Island says residents and tourists experienced less than an inch of rain. Byron Miller, manager of The Ocracoke Harbor Inn, said in a telephone interview that "it's just a normal day."


2:45 a.m.

North Carolina's Outer Banks apparently will be spared from a tropical system that has been moving toward the state for days.

The National Weather Service said Wednesday morning that the tropical depression was moving away from the state. Highest winds were still 35 mph. The system was about 75 miles east of Cape Hatteras and was moving to the northeast at 5 mph.

A tropical storm warning for the North Carolina coast was dropped Tuesday night.

Only a few clouds were reported and winds were only about 5 mph on the Outer Banks Wednesday morning.

Forecasters earlier had worried the area could get up to 5 inches of rain as the storm passed near the coast.


This item has been corrected to show system is moving to the northeast at 5 mph, not 35 mph.


1:40 a.m.

Heavy rainfall is expected across much of Florida as a tropical depression looms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Heavy rain caused some local street flooding in South Florida on Tuesday, and more is forecast for Wednesday.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Andrew Hagan says the tropical depression that's expected to become a tropical storm later Wednesday is keeping the atmosphere more moist than usual.

Eric Blake of the National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm will likely dump around 5 inches of rain on areas of central and north Florida as it approaches the state Thursday. Some areas could see up to 15 inches of rain.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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