WILMINGTON, N.C. Tropical Storm Hermine has eastern North Carolina watching the forecast closely ahead of the Labor Day weekend. The storm’s projected path indicates heavy rains and wind gusts of 50-55 mph starting later afternoon on Friday, but some impact may be felt in Wilmington as early as Thursday night. The National Weather Service is predicting and approximately eight inches of rain for Morehead City and more than six inches of rain over the weekend as far inland as Goldsboro. Hermine is expected to become a hurricane before it reaches Florida.Hazardous roads and potential flood conditions are possible, continuing through early Saturday. Officials say that a flash flood watch will go into effect at 6 a.m. on Friday. In Wrightsville Beach, lifeguards are reporting that area beaches are already affected by dangerous rip currents. They advise visitors to stay out of the water as directed by signage and safety personnel.Potential hazards during tropical weather and flash floods include downed tree branches; standing water; slick surfaces, particularly on steps and walkways; and debris. Do not attempt to drive through standing water. Do not enter standing water on foot; there may be significant risks of infection or electrocution. Be mindful of traffic impacts and proceed with caution and patience.In a statement released Wednesday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory called on people to be prepared for the storm.”It’s too soon to tell exactly what impact this may have on North Carolina residents and visitors over the next several days, but we want everyone to pay attention, stay prepared and be cautious,” McCrory said. “We know from experience that the storm tracks can shift quickly, as we saw 20 years ago when Hurricane Fran devastated portions of coastal and central North Carolina. While this storm is not predicted to be that severe, we want everyone to take it seriously and ensure that your family is prepared.”The Florida panhandle from the Suwannee River to Mexico Beach has been under a hurricane warning since Wednesday as the strengthening storm was expected to sweep across northern parts of the state and then northeast along the Atlantic Coast, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.The forecast of rough weather prompted Florida Gov. Rick Scott to declare an emergency Wednesday as many school districts along the Gulf Coast canceled after-school activities and ordered students to stay home on Thursday.Cities such as Tallahassee and Orlando were offering sandbags to residents to protect homes and businesses from flooding caused by the up to 10 inches of rain as heavy rains were already pounding parts of the state and were expected through Friday.”There is a danger of life-threatening inundation,” said the center’s advisory that noted the possibility of as much as 20 inches (20 cm) of rain to fall in some isolated areas and life-threatening flash flooding.The storm, packing sustained winds of 60 mph with higher gusts, was expected to get stronger by the time it reach landfall, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous, the center said.”Heavy rainfall and strong winds will make driving dangerous. Even after the storm passes, citizens should avoid unnecessary travel to allow first responders and road clearing crews to quickly respond to emergency needs,” the City of Tallahassee said in an alert to residents.A tropical storm warning was also issued for the U.S. East Coast from Marineland, Fla., to South Santee River, S.C., the Miami-based weather forecaster said.U.S. oil and gas producers in the east of the Gulf of Mexico removed workers from 10 offshore platforms, moved drilling rigs and shut some output because of the storm.Reuters contributed to this report.
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