Center of Tropical Storm Colin moving across northern Florida: NHC

Strong winds and heavy rainfall were expected across the southeastern United States on Tuesday even as the center of Tropical Storm Colin was moving into the Atlantic Ocean.

The storm was 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Charleston, South Carolina, at 4 a.m. eastern time (0800 GMT) and moving at 31 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from the Altamaha Sound Georgia to Oregon Inlet in North Carolina on Tuesday morning. On its forecast path, Colin was to barrel along the coast of the southeastern United States before moving out to sea during the day.

As 50 mph winds were expected in the region, a tornado was reported in Lee County Florida, the National Weather Service said. The storm was forecast dump as much as 1 to 3 inches more of rain as flash flood warnings and watches were in effect across the region, the hurricane center said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, who had declared a state of emergency on Monday in 34 of the state’s 67 counties, said more than 6,000 Florida National Guard members were activated and ready for deployment.

Flooding and property damage resulting from the fierce winds remained threats into the day, and far beyond the storm’s immediate path, forecasters warned.

A statement from Scott’s office warned residents to be wary of rip currents and the possibility of 10 foot (3 m) waves along the Gulf Coast.

“It is critical that all Floridians use caution and remain alert,” he said in the statement.

In the St. Petersburg beach town of Gulfport and in Charleston, South Carolina, roads were flooded, local authorities said on social media.

About 10,000 customers were without power in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, utilities reported.

The storm also threatened crops in Florida, the country’s biggest citrus producer, which sent U.S. orange juice futures on Monday to their highest in more than two years.

Colin is part of a brisk start to the Atlantic hurricane season that runs through Nov. 30. Over the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend, the Carolinas were lashed by heavy rain and winds from Tropical Storm Bonnie.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Alison Williams)

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