Tropical Depression 9 has grown into a Tropical Storm named Hermine. As Hermine continues to strengthen, Florida begins preparation for what could be the first hurricane to make landfall since Wilma in 2005. With over 10 years dulling memories of their last hurricane, some people become careless in their preparation, but the National Hurricane Center’s hurricane warning is a stern reminder for people to be aware of the potential winds, storm surges and flooding that they may experience as early as Thursday evening.
Hermine continues to be a disorganized storm, but its intensity remains uncertain. As of 7 a.m. Thursday, Hermine’s winds had reached 65 mph, which is only 9 miles from becoming a hurricane.
Persistently strong thunderstorm activity near the storm’s center indicates Hermine is at least maintaining it strength, and major flooding will be triggered by heavy rains.
The center of Hermine is currently predicted to reach shore between Suwanee River and Mexico Beach, with dangerous surges threatening specifically on the southern side of the storm. Surge warnings are in effect from Franklin County through Hernando County, with surges up to 6 to 7 feet expected in coastal Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties.
Which locations get the brunt of the storm’s impact, however, will be determined by the timing of the tides. While Hurricane Sandy reached land at one of the highest astronomical tides of the year in 2012, Hermine’s landfall is predicted near low tide in Apalachicola. Although this lower tide reduces the net water level by about 1.2 feet, landfall closer to high tide farther down the coast near Cedar Key could raise the water level over 3 feet.
Some of Apalachicola’s worst storm surge events included the surge produced by Category 3 Hurricane Dennis in 2005 and Hurricane Elena in 1985. Current tide conditions could allow Hermine’s surge to rival that of Hurricane Dennis, which hit near Pensacola.
Hermine’s heavy rains will track along the East Coast and bring heavy rains to Georgia and the Carolinas after passing over Florida. Until Hermine’s final strength and organization is ascertained at landfall and the center passes through Florida and back over water in the Atlantic, it is not clear how far inland the storm’s impact will reach.
Hermine also elevates the threat of tornadoes from the central Florida peninsula up into southeastern Georgia today and tonight. These types of tornadoes are generally on the lower end of the scale, but they remain capable of causing tremendous damage to homes and trees.
A hurricane hasn’t made Florida landfall in over 10 years. Hermine may end that streak.
Article originally by Brian McNoldy