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 over 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.
Mecklenburg County Duke Power outages: : 1,615 customers
There are 2,880 Duke Energy customers without power in Mecklenburg County
In Mecklenburg County, 2,592 Duke Energy customers are without power. Search the map here. Report your outage by calling Duke Energy at 800.769.3766 or texting OUT to 57801.
In Mecklenburg County, 2,067 Duke Energy customers are without power.
The center of Hermine is currently near the Colleton/Charleston County border. So far, the storm has dumped rain on the area and 20 mph wind gusts.
The rain shield is expected to move outside of Charlotte by around 7 p.m., according to Channel 9's team of meteorologists.
A South Carolina official said Hermine has spawned scattered reports of flooded roads, trees down and power outages but no major damage.
Emergency Management Division spokesman Derrec Becker likened it more to a bad summer storm than a hurricane. The storm hit Florida as a hurricane, but winds fell to tropical storm strength as it moved across the Southeast.
Gov. Nikki Haley did not declare a state of emergency.
The worst damage appears to be on the southern tip of the state in Beaufort County where there were flooded roads, numerous reports of trees down and where a wind gust of 52 mph was recorded.
In the Charleston area, only a handful of roads were closed because of flooding, not uncommon during summer thunderstorms.
Wind gusts up to 30 mph were reported in the Richland County area, and some areas received 4 inches of rain — mainly south and east of Columbia.
Virtually all of South Carolina is under some sort of weather warning -- tropical storm warnings near the coast to high wind warnings farther inland. Flash flood watches are posted everywhere except the state's far northwest corner.
Strong thunderstorms moved through Charleston early Friday although no downtown streets were immediately closed because of flooding. Scattered power outages were reported around the state.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Charleston say the flood threat has eased a bit and about 3 to 5 inches of rain are forecast -- down from as much as 10 inches predicted a day earlier.
Hermine has left thousands of electric customers in the Carolinas in the dark even before the center of the storm moves in.
Outage maps posted by utilities serving in North and South Carolina show that power is out to more than 13,000 customers. Most of those outages are in Beaufort County in southern South Carolina — the first area of the state to feel the full effects of the storm.
Forecasters say the center of the storm should move into South Carolina early Friday afternoon and continue northeast on a path generally along Interstate 95.
Hermine was the first hurricane to hit Florida in more than a decade when it came ashore early Friday.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said a homeless man died in north Florida when a tree fell on him as winds from Hermine whipped across the state.
The Ocala Star-Banner reports the man was apparently sleeping in a tent behind Diamond Oil near Ocala when the tree fell on him.
After pushing into Georgia, Hermine is expected to move into the Carolinas and up the East Coast with the potential for drenching rain and deadly flooding.
Chesterfield County: Due to the potential for severe weather that may impact travel conditions Friday afternoon, Chesterfield County Schools will operate on a half-day schedule and close at noon. Half-day 3K and 4K classes are canceled. All after-school events and activities, including after-school care, are canceled on Friday at all of our schools.
Richmond County: Schools will be dismissing students at 12:30 p.m.
Anson County: Elementary schools will dismiss at noon. Middle and high schools will dismiss at 1:30 p.m.
Carowinds: Park will not open Friday. Will resume normal operations Saturday.
Matthews: The town of Matthews is cancelling all Matthews Alive activities.
Charlotte Knights: Friday's game has been postponed. The two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday with first pitch of game one set for 6:05 p.m. Both games will be seven-inning contests and game two will follow approximately 30 minutes after the completion of game one.
The Carolina coastline will have to be monitored closely, as the forecast path of Tropical Storm Hermine brings it through the area during the first half of the holiday weekend.
New data on Thursday morning showed the storm's path taking it slightly further to the east than originally forecasted, which is good news for the Charlotte area.
Governor Pat McCrory announced a state of emergency for 33 counties in the eastern part of North Carolina on Thursday.
McCrory addressed the public Friday morning, saying, “Our goal continues to be over-prepared and underwhelmed. Our goal is to make sure we have no loss of life or serious injuries, and then hopefully we'll get to enjoy the rest of the Labor Day weekend after this storm goes through our state."
The Charlotte Fire Department was sending 14 members of its Swift Water Rescue Team to New Bern to stage for Hermine.
North Carolina Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry said Duke Energy was staging 150 crews that were ready to respond into impacted areas.
“We do expect some loss of power with the winds and also the heavy rains," he said.
McCrory stressed that citizens of the state stay safe, and not venture out into flooded areas.
"Please do not drive your car through any of the flooded roadways. Not only are you putting yourself and your family at risk, you're putting our emergency operations people at risk and our troopers," McCrory said. "We want this thing to move in and out as quick as possible, with as little damage as possible to trees, utilities, to roads and to people."
We are keeping a close eye on Hermine as it moves into southern Georgia. Rain will push into the Charlotte area by mid-morning Friday and we will continue to see waves of heavy rain in and out throughout the afternoon.
The heaviest rainfall will be east of Charlotte, where we could see 3-5 inches by the end of the day. We are expecting close to an inch in Charlotte, with less than half an inch as you head north towards the mountains and foothills.
Some flights at Charlotte Douglas International Airport were being impacted by the tropical storm, with a few cancelations and delays.
Southeast of Charlotte is where the majority of the flash flood risk will be. Winds will also be the strongest in this area, so falling trees will be an issue as well.
The nasty conditions should start to wind down later Friday evening and overnight. Hopefully that bodes well for football games (with the exception of the southeast, where the rain lingers longer).
Winds will also be strong throughout the day, as we could see wind gusts up to about 35 mph at times. It won't be quite as warm Friday, with highs in the mid-70s.
The rain will wind down quickly Friday night as the storm continues to push off to the coast. It is looking much better for Saturday, with highs near 80 degrees and plenty of sunshine and lower humidity.
The dry weather will continue through the Labor Day weekend before temps return to the low 90s by Monday.
Get the latest information on the tropical season by downloading our free WSOC-TV Weather app and clicking on the “Tropics” tab.
Charleston mayor urging folks to hunker down
The mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, which saw historic flooding less than a year ago, is urging residents there to "batten down the hatches, hunker down and stay put" as Hermine moves through South Carolina.
Mayor John Tecklenburg told reporters Friday that the city is blessed that it's not dealing with a major hurricane but officials are taking Hermine seriously.
He says as Hermine approaches, the city is expecting serious winds and rainfall that can lead to flash flooding. He said the city distributed 3,000 sandbags Thursday.
It's been almost a year since rainfall from what has been described as a 1,000-year-storm inundated South Carolina and caused widespread flooding in Charleston that prompted officials to block people from entering the downtown area.
As of midmorning on Friday, a city map of street closings showed only one street had been blocked by flooding from Hermine.
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