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Hermine Slams Florida Coast East Of St. Marks

Forecasters say Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Big Bend just east of St. Marks, bringing 80 mph winds and heavy rains before being downgraded to a tropical storm as it moves across the Panhandle.

It’s the first hurricane to hit the Sunshine State in more than a decade.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hermine made landfall early Friday around 1:30 a.m. EDT.

Projected storm surges of up to 12 feet menaced the coastline and expected rainfall up to 10 inches carried the danger of flooding through the storm's path, including the state capital, Tallahassee, which hadn't been hit by a hurricane since Kate in 1985.

In the Tampa Bay area, coastal flooding forced at least 18 people from their homes in Green Key and Hudson Beach as rain from Hermine drenches the state.

Early Friday morning, Pasco County Fire Rescue and sheriff's deputies used high-water vehicles to rescue people from rising water. They were taken to a nearby shelter.

The sheriff's office said in a news release that storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico, combined with intermittent bands of heavy rain, pushed water into low-lying neighborhoods.

Many roads in the area north of Tampa, are also flooded.

Outer bands from Hermine continue to dump large amounts of rain across the Tampa Bay area.

Meteorologist Daniel Noah of the National Weather Service in Tampa says the rain should start slowing by Friday afternoon.

But the rain caused flooding in many areas of Tampa, St. Petersburg and coastal regions in Pinellas and Pasco counties. Law enforcement authorities are warning people to be extremely cautious while driving due to flooded roads and possible downed trees and power lines.

Noah says that over the past 72 hours, the Tampa Bay area has seen sign significant rainfall. An area west of Oldsmar in Pinellas County recorded 22.36 inches of rain while in nearby Largo some 15.23 inches of rain has fallen. Other rain totals include 10.73 inches in Seminole, 9.71 inches in Longboat Key and 8.61 inches in Port Richey.