Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

After Fla., Hermine Threatens East Coast

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

After Fla., Hermine Threatens East Coast

Article excerpt

DEKLE BEACH, Fla. - The first hurricane to hit Florida in more than a decade wiped away beachside buildings and toppled trees onto homes Friday before plowing inland on a path that could send it rolling up the densely populated East Coast with heavy rain, high winds and flooding. Hermine quickly weakened to a tropical storm as it spun through Georgia and the Carolinas.

But the National Hurricane Center predicted it would regain hurricane strength after emerging in the Atlantic Ocean.

The system could then lash coastal areas as far north as Connecticut and Rhode Island through Labor Day.

"Anyone along the U.S. East Coast needs to be paying close attention this weekend, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.

In Florida, Hermine's main impact was power outages and damage from storm surges.

A homeless man in Marion County, south of Gainesville, died when a tree fell on him, Gov. Rick Scott said.

An estimated 325,000 people were without power in Florida and more than 107,000 in neighboring Georgia, officials said.

At 2 p.m., the storm was centered about 80 miles southwest of Charleston, South Carolina, and moving northeast at 18 mph, according to the hurricane center.

The system was forecast to regain hurricane status by Monday morning off the Maryland-Delaware coast before weakening again as it moves north. Tropical storm watches and warnings were posted up and down the coastline.

Back in Florida, a storm surge at Dekle Beach damaged numerous homes and destroyed storage buildings and a 100-yard fishing pier. The area is about 60 miles southeast of St. Marks, where Hermine made landfall at 1:30 a.m. in the Big Bend area, where Florida's peninsula and panhandle meet.

Nancy Geohagen walked around collecting photos and other items for her neighbors that had been thrown from storage.

"I know who this baseball bat belongs to, she said plucking it from a pile of debris.

An unnamed spring storm that hit the beach in 1993 killed 10 people who refused to evacuate. This time, only three residents stayed behind. All escaped injury.

In nearby Steinhatchee, a storm surge crashed into Bobbi Pattison's home. She wore galoshes and was covered in black muck as she stood in her living room amid overturned furniture and an acrid smell. Tiny crabs darted around her floor.

"I had a hurricane cocktail party last night and God got even with me, she said with a chuckle. Where her bar once stood now was only wet sand and rubble. Pattison and two neighbors managed to set upright a large wooden statue of a sea captain she had carved from wood that washed ashore in the 1993 storm.

In Keaton Beach, about two dozen people waited on a road just after sunrise Friday, trying to get to their homes. Police blocked the road because of flooding.

Dustin Beach, 31, had rushed there from a hospital in Tallahassee where his wife had given birth Thursday night to a girl to see if his home still stood. …

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