Madeline weakens to tropical storm as nears Hawaii; Hermine approaches Florida

Image courtesy National Hurricane Center

Depression in Gulf upgraded to Tropical Storm Hermine Image courtesy National Hurricane Center

On the forecast track, the center of the tropical cyclone will approach the northwest Florida coast in the warning area on Thursday afternoon.

Madeline, as it weakened with sustained winds of about 70 mph (113 kph) on Wednesday afternoon, was about 75 miles (121 km) southeast of the Big Island, said Central Pacific Hurricane Center meteorologist Ray Tanabe. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 36 hours, and Hermine could be near hurricane strength by the time it makes landfall.

Because of the higher potential for hurricane conditions near the coast, a Hurricane Warning has been issued for the coastline from Mexico Beach to the Suwannee River, along with interior Big Bend counties. NOAA's National Hurricane Center said that a north-northeastward motion at a faster forward speed is expected to begin later today, August 31, and a turn toward the northeast is forecast tonight.

At 5 p.m., the Hurricane Center said that Hermine was 325 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Fla., moving north-northeast at 7 mph.

A state of emergency has been declared for most of Florida as Tropical Storm Hermine moved through the Gulf of Mexico toward the Florida panhandle Wednesday. The greatest threat of coastal flooding will be near the times of high tide on Friday, 9:00 am and 9:00 pm. The storm is now forecast to reach hurricane strength before coming ashore on the Florida panhandle tonight.

Among the dangers this storm poses, one of the most unsafe is storm surge.

"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.

Hurricane Lester, a category 4 storm with 130 mph winds, is moving to the west at about 13 mph and is located about 1,000 miles east of Hilo, Hawaii. A tropical storm watch is in effect from Marineland, Florida to Altamaha Sound, Georgia.

In nearby Tampa, the Buccaneers' final preseason National Football League game against the Washington Redskins was moved from Thursday night to Wednesday in anticipation of the storm. According to current projections, the possible peak of the storm activity may focus on Thursday night through the first half of Friday.

Those along the affected coasts should also brace for strong winds, heavy rain and the possibility of tornadoes. Local officials said this would result in one to two feet of water over land in many areas along the coast.

The hurricane center is using a prototype storm surge watch-warning graphic to depict the areas most at risk.

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