Hurricane Hermine hammers Florida, leaving thousands without power

(JTA) — Fierce winds and rain from Hurricane Hermine slammed Florida’s northern Gulf Coast, causing power outages that left tens of thousands of households in the dark.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said the storm could lead to deaths and told residents to stay indoors until it had passed, Reuters reported Friday. Hermine is the worst hurricane to hit Florida in years, BBC reported.

Hermine, a Category 1 hurricane, made landfall shortly after midnight about 5 miles southeast of St. Marks, bringing heavy rains and packing winds of 80 mph. It left 70,000 households in the state capital Tallahassee and thousands more elsewhere without power.

“It is a mess…we have high water in numerous places,” Virgil Sandlin, the police chief in Cedar Key, Florida, told the Weather Channel.

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Strong gusts downed power lines and trees as widespread flooding inundated communities in northern Florida before the hurricane reached into Georgia, where conditions were expected to deteriorate throughout the early morning on Friday.

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will continue to cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

The center warned that some areas along Florida’s northern Gulf Coast may experience 9 feet of flooding.

“Stay indoors even if it calm outside. The eye of Hermine may be passing through. Let it pass completely before surveying any damage,” Governor Scott advised residents in a Twitter post.

The National Weather Service issued several tornado warnings and watches for communities throughout northern Florida and Georgia on Friday. The National Hurricane Center extended a tropical storm watch north through Sandy Hook, New Jersey.