Tropical Storm Hermine is picking up forward speed and is expected to make landfall on the Florida Gulf Coast tonight or early Friday, potentially as the state's first hurricane landfall since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 65 mph, with higher gusts.
Additional strengthening is anticipated, and Hermine is expected to be a hurricane by the time landfall occurs, according to the National Hurricane Center, which last updated its advisory at 7 a.m.
“Winds are expected to first reach tropical storm strength by this afternoon, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous,” the hurricane center said. “Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.”
The combination of a dangerous 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 a danger of life-threatening inundation within the next 36 hours along the Gulf Coast of Florida from Aripeka to Indian Pass,” the hurricane center said.
If peak surge occurs at high tide, the hurricane center predicted the following possible water heights:
Destin to Indian Pass: 1 to 3 feet
Indian Pass to Chassahowitzka: 4 to 7 feet
Chassahowitzka to Aripeka: 2 to 4 feet
Aripeka to Bonita Beach (including Tampa Bay): 1 to 3 feet
Florida-Georgia line to Cape Fear, N.C.: 1 to 3 feet
Tropical storm warnings were issued along the Southeast coast early this morning from Florida's First Coast to a swath of coastal South Carolina, including Jacksonville Beach, St. Simons Island, Hilton Head Island and Charleston, according to The Weather Channel.
This means tropical storm-force winds (39 mph or higher) are expected within 36 hours.
Tropical storm watches were issued north of that to include Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Wrightsville Beach and Surf City in North Carolina.
According to Weather Underground's Jeff Masters, this is the first hurricane warning issued for any part of Florida since Hurricane Isaac four years ago.
BoatUS and Sea Tow issued tips for storm preparation leading up to the storm. Before Hermine was named, BoatUS cautioned that it does not take a hurricane to sink a boat.
Sea Tow also urged boaters to take steps to prevent damage from tropical depressions.