Hermine made landfall as a hurricane in Florida before being weakened to a tropical storm, but the system continues to promise heavy rains, gusty winds and flooding for the Carolinas through Friday night.
The Associated Press reports one death has so far been linked to the storm on Friday, when a homeless man was killed by a falling tree in Ocala, in Central Florida. He was discovered Friday morning.
Tropical storm, flash flood and high wind watches and warnings are posted for a large portion of the Carolinas, including a flash flood watch in Mecklenburg and several nearby counties into Saturday morning.
Heavy rain associated with the north and west side of the circulation around Hermine is expected to produce widespread 1 to 3 inch rainfall totals through this evening, the National Weather Service said. Embedded amounts of up to 4 inches will be possible in areas affected by multiple tropical rain bands. This could be sufficient to produce flash flooding, officials said.
Emergency management officials, mindful that tens of thousands of people typically flock to the Carolinas beaches on Labor Day weekend, are urging caution as the tropical storm moves northward Friday.
Authorities say they expect nice weather for the rest of the weekend. Across the eastern Carolinas, some school systems and government offices are closed or shutting early as the storm approaches. Hermine had top sustained winds of 80 mph when it made landfall on the Florida panhandle.
At daybreak Friday, the center of the storm was near Valdosta, Ga., with top winds of 70 mph and higher gusts.
The National Hurricane Center said it expects Hermine to have sustained winds of 50 mph as it pushes northward along the coastal plain of the Carolinas later Friday.
N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency in 33 eastern counties, saying state agencies would rather be “over-prepared and underwhelmed by this storm.”
He said the goal is to have coastal areas operating normally by Saturday for the rest of the holiday weekend. Tropical Storm Hermine is forecast to be north of the Carolinas by Saturday morning.
Authorities are encouraging people who plan to travel to the Carolinas beaches for the Labor Day weekend to consider delaying that trip until Saturday morning, when the storm is passed. Tropical storm conditions are likely to continue into Friday evening.
The Charlotte area will be at the western edge of the tropical storm, but National Weather Service meteorologists say the presence of a stalled cold front in the region could combine with moisture from Hermine to set off flash flooding.
A round of heavy thunderstorms Thursday evening that were associated with the cold front dumped several inches of rain in parts of the area. An automated gauge near Tyvola Road in south Charlotte measured 4.8 inches of rain, and there were several reports of 2.5 inches elsewhere in south Charlotte.
Flooding closed Downs and Eagleton Downs roads in Pineville for a time Thursday evening. A large area of moderate to heavy rain fell overnight about 50 miles south of Charlotte.
The Weather Service’s Rodney Hinson said meteorologists think that area of rain will be pushed back north Friday by the circulation around Hermine.
“The combination of this rain, and the wet antecedent conditions, will lead to the potential for flash flooding,” Hinson said.
The Weather Service’s computer models predict about 1.5 inches of rain Friday in Charlotte, but possibly double that total a short distance to the east and southeast – in Union, York and possibly even southeast Mecklenburg counties.
In the Charlotte area, the flash flood watch covers Mecklenburg, Gaston, Cabarrus, Union, Stanly and Anson counties, along with York, Chester, Lancaster and Chesterfield counties in South Carolina.
Forecasters say there will be a sharp cut-off in rainfall totals, with much lighter precipitation rates to the west of Charlotte. Hinson said winds will increase in the Charlotte area Friday afternoon and evening, occasionally gusting to 30 mph. That, along with the wet ground, could cause some trees to fall.
People trying to leave Charlotte by air are also encountering problems. Authorities at Charlotte Douglas International Airport report a number of flight cancellations to airports directly in the path of Hermine, including Jacksonville, Charleston and Savannah.
Operations at Charlotte’s airport are not expected to be impacted by the storm. AT THE COAST Meteorologists say Hermine will spread a variety of bad weather northward into the Carolinas on the first day of the Labor Day holiday weekend. High surf, dangerous rip currents, flash flooding, and tornadoes are possible.
A few tornado warnings were already issued before daybreak Friday in South Carolina, south of Charleston.
Horry County emergency management officials warned residents and tourists to use caution during the day. Brooke Holden, an official with emergency management in the county, said officials are not expecting major damage but that areas like Cherry Grove and Garden City might experience increased flooding at high tide.
Government offices in eight S.C. counties are closed Friday, while offices in two other counties will close early. A number of school systems, including those in Myrtle Beach and Florence, are closing early.
In North Carolina, Dare County authorities ordered the mandatory evacuation of visitors from Ocracoke Island. Ferries began transporting tourists off the island Thursday evening. Ferry service typically is interrupted by tropical systems. Tourists attractions such as Fort Fisher and Moores Creek National Battlefield near Wilmington are closed Friday.
The approach of Tropical Storm Hermine caused several dozen high school football games to be moved from Friday to Thursday night. Some of those games were not completed until after 11 p.m., however, because of delays caused by Thursday evening’s thunderstorms.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials told athletics directors at CMS schools that any postponed Friday night would have to be rescheduled for Monday. The exceptions are Mallard Creek and Vance high schools, which are playing out-of-state opponents and were given permission to reschedule for Saturday.
A number of other games in the Charlotte area have been postponed and rescheduled for Saturday or Monday. Officials at Darlington Motor Speedway have cancelled all activities Friday but say they expect to hold their NASCAR races Saturday and Sunday. The Sprint Cup race is scheduled for Sunday evening.
Watches and warning
Tropical Storm Warning: In effect along the Carolinas coast. This warning also covers several inland counties in both states. Heavy rain, winds of up to 65 mph, and tornadoes are possible.
High Wind Warning: Posted for the eastern half of South Carolina, including Columbia. Winds could gust to 50 mph. Wind Advisory: In effect for the sandhills and eastern Piedmont, including Union, Anson, Lancaster and York counties in the Charlotte area.
Winds could gust up to 40 mph. Flash Flood Watch: In effect until early Saturday morning for much of the central and eastern Carolinas, including Mecklenburg, Gaston, Cabarrus, Stanly, Union, Anson, York, Chester, Lancaster and Chesterfield counties in the Charlotte region. Tornado Watch: In effect until 4 p.m. for South Carolina counties along and east of I-95.