One dead, severe damages in Florida as Tropical Storm Hermine moves north

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Sept. 2 (UPI) — A 56-year-old man died after being hit by a falling tree and parts of Florida sustained severe damages as Hurricane Hermine, now downgraded to a tropical storm, slammed into the state early Friday.

John Mayes was one of three people sleeping in a tent behind a gas station when a tree fell in the strong wind. Emergency workers had to cut through the tree to locate Mayes, who was immediately pronounced dead. Homes and businesses in Taylor County, located in the Big Bend area of the Panhandle, were damaged from rising flood waters and at least 10 feet of storm surge. In Pasco County, unconfirmed reports of a tornado overturned a tractor trailer and downed trees.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said crews began assessing damages Friday afternoon. Some 253,000 people were without power during the storm. He warned residents to begin cleanup with caution.

“Life-threatening coastal flooding and rip currents will continue and we must all remain vigilant. There will be a lot of debris, including uprooted trees and fallen limbs. We expect to see downed traffic lights, road signs and power lines that must be avoided. We also expect to have significant amounts of flood water along coastal and inland areas,” he said.

Hermine was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Hermine made landfall south of Tallahassee as a Category 1 hurricane, bringing with it winds of 80 mph.

As of 11 a.m. Friday, the storm had moved into Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph and tropical storm force winds extending about 175 miles east of the center. Tropical storm warnings were discontinued for Florida’s Gulf Coast. Tornadoes are possible for North and South Carolina throughout Friday.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm should strengthen once it moves offshore on Saturday afternoon.

“The combination of a storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. There is the possibility of life-threatening inundation during the next 48 hours at most coastal locations between the North Carolina/Virginia border and Bridgeport, Conn.,” the National Hurricane Center said.

A tropical storm watch has been posted for parts of New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island as the storm moves north. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned the storm could cause severe damages, including flooding.

“I don’t want anyone to take this one lightly,” he said Friday morning. “There are some elements of this storm that are very, very troubling.

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